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'Nobody’s been knocking down our door to buy the Coliseum'

May 14, 2009 |  1:11 pm


So how much is the Los Angeles Coliseum worth in real dollars?

Not much.

That’s the position of L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, president of the Coliseum Commission, who held a news conference today in front of the stadium to blast Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s suggestion that the historic venue be sold to help the state's ailing finances.

“Nobody’s been knocking down our door to buy the Coliseum,” Yaroslavsky said. “There have been people who want to get it for nothing. There are people who want to modify it in such a grotesque way that it would not meet the terms of the national historic preservation laws. … So I don’t think there’s going to be a long line of people wanting to buy this.

“And if anybody thinks that you’re going to get $250 million or $400 million for this property, guess again. I’ve got some beachfront property in Nebraska I’d like to interest you in.”

Although the state owns the property on which the Coliseum and Sports Arena sit -- valued at $16 million by a third-party evaluator in 2001 -- the actual buildings are owned in equal parts by the city, county and state.

The Coliseum Commission pays $1 million a year in rent to the state as part of a lease that runs out in 2054. The commission, in turn, rents the stadium to USC as part of a 25-year agreement with the school that’s predicated on the commission completing more than $50 million in improvements to the stadium over the next four years. The sale of naming rights is supposed to pay for those renovations, but there is no naming-rights deal in place.

Asked about the possibility of USC buying the stadium, Yaroslavsky said: “I don’t think USC has any interest in buying it. … There’s no reason for them to acquire this facility, and there’s no reason for us to turn it over to them.”

However, Kristina Raspe, USC’s senior vice president of real estate and asset management, said the school “would have to consider” buying the stadium at the right price if it were the only way to ensure the improvements would be made.

Prior to last year’s lease agreement with the Coliseum Commission, the school had offered to make $100 million in improvements to the stadium in exchange for the right to run it, but was rebuffed by the commission.

It’s Yaroslavsky’s position -- and that of Coliseum General Manager Pat Lynch, who joined him at the news conference -- that the state cannot sell the Coliseum, nor should it sell the park surrounding it. Yaroslavsky called the suggestion “boneheaded” and “absurd.”

Yaroslavsky also did not rule out the possibility that the proposal to sell the stadium amid the state’s fiscal crisis was simply a political ploy, with elections Tuesday. The state faces a deficit projected at $15.4 billion -- more, if voters reject a slate of ballot measures on Tuesday.

“People are not as foolish as some politicians think they are,” he said. “They have a very sensitive B.S.-sniffing meter. And I think this is what’s going to come across; it’s going to register very high on that meter.”

--Sam Farmer

Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times