Iconic Coliseum freeway sign may be mortgaged to USC to raise cash
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is so broke that officials want to mortgage its iconic electronic advertisement sign near the 110 Freeway to USC.
The stark proposal came as the stadium, which has lost more than $7 million in recent years, is expected to essentially run out of money by the end of June. Finance officials said the Coliseum's cash balance of $2.3 million will by the end of June be just $15,375.
"The commission's cash assets are at very low levels," said a report submitted to the Coliseum Commission, a panel of state, county and city representatives.
The cash from mortgaging the sign could be used to fund operating expenses or future legal costs. The stadium is being sued by the family of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez, who died after attending a rave concert at the Coliseum in 2010 where she overdosed on Ecstasy.
Under the proposal, USC has agreed to lend the Coliseum up to $1.5 million. If the loan and interest could not be repaid within 10 years, USC could take possession of the sign.
The Coliseum's financial woes come as the stadium's governing panel is poised to give up day-to-day control of the facility to USC on Monday.
The vote has become controversial amid news that California ethics officials are investigating allegations that the Coliseum's interim general manager, John Sandbrook, illegally sought a job with USC while he was representing the public interest in lease negotiations with the private university.
Such simultaneous discussions would pose a conflict of interest for Sandbrook under state law.
One of the critics of the deal, City Councilman and stadium Commissioner Bernard C. Parks, demanded Friday that the Monday vote on the lease deal be canceled.
"I believe he has been more of an advocate for USC than for the Coliseum during the lease process," Parks said in a letter to his fellow commissioners, referring to Sandbrook. "I am insisting that Monday’s scheduled vote … be delayed until this inquiry is resolved."
-- Rong-Gong Lin II
Photo: Coliseum interim general manager John Sandbrook in 2011. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times