Coliseum Commission approves controversial new lease with USC
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission on Monday approved a landmark agreement to surrender public control of the 88-year-old stadium to USC.
The 8-1 vote, with Commissioner Bernard C. Parks opposing, caps months of secretive negotiations as the stadium's governing panel, which is jointly controlled by the state, county and city, has hurtled toward financial ruin. The Coliseum commission has been struggling with a corruption scandal that has led to the arrests of three of its former managers, a janitorial contractor and two rave promoters that held concerts there.
USC and the Commission majority have said the deal is important to modernize the dilapidated stadium, which has lacked maintenance for years and needs its seats replaced. Sports industry experts say the deal offers USC virtually all the practical advantages of owning the Coliseum without forcing the school to buy it.
A state report in 2005 valued the Coliseum grounds at between $240 million and $400 million. The lease deal calls for USC to invest $70 million to renovate the stadium, take over the Coliseum's $1-million rent to the state, and give the university control over revenue. The private school is seeking control of the stadium for 99 years.
"Most of it is exclusively to benefit the university," said Parks, who is also an L.A. councilman and has been a vocal opponent of the deal. "We should have negotiated this with more interest to the community and in the interest of the taxpayers."
L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a stadium commissioner who supported the deal, said USC has the financial ability to make the stadium a first-class property. "I believe our community deserves a first-rate facility," he said.
After Monday's vote, USC is seeking three more concessions from the state: an extension of the Coliseum lease from 2054 to 2111, a promise not to renegotiate the deal if the Coliseum Commission somehow dissolves, and a deal to control six potentially highly profitable state-owned parking lots ringing the stadium.
-- Rong-Gong Lin II
Photo: The inside of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum last month. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times