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County should take control of L.A. Coliseum, supervisor says

October 7, 2011 |  6:49 pm

L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas wants the county Board of Supervisors to take direct control of the troubled L.A. Memorial Coliseum from a joint state, city and county commission, the politician wrote in a letter Friday.

The need for reform comes, he wrote, as the Coliseum has found itself unable to pay millions of dollars for renovations to the stadium and as its finances are under scrutiny.

Document: Letter calling for dissolution of Coliseum Commission

"It is now clear to me the Coliseum's future viability will depend on a new operational structure," said Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes the stadium. He also sits on the Coliseum Commission.

His letter requests that County Counsel Andrea Ordin write a report about how the state and city and county of Los Angeles would dissolve the commission. "I believe the County of Los Angeles may be in the strongest position among the three parties to manage the Coliseum, and would therefore request you examine the legal viability of that option," he wrote.

In an interview, Ridley-Thomas said the county was financially healthier than the city and state governments. He also noted that both former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown have  proposed in their budgets to sell the Coliseum.

"A more up-to-date, a more efficient, a more accountable governance structure is called for," Ridley-Thomas said.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who like Ridley-Thomas sits on the Coliseum Commission, also said the commission should be dissolved. But Yaroslavsky said the state would be in the best position to take over, since it already owns the land on which the stadium sits.

"It's an anachronism. … It [the commission] meets once a month in a totally different environment than existed 50 years ago, a time when the Coliseum was the only game in town," Yaroslavsky said. "I think it'd be better if one entity was in charge that has an infrastructure that is capable of operating these facilities in an honest and efficient and profit-making way, something we don't have at the Coliseum Commission."

Yaroslavsky also said he supports the Coliseum Commission giving up day-to-day control of the venue and giving a "master lease" to USC, in return for the private campus sinking tens of millions of dollars into stadium improvements.

"If it's going to become something more than the Roman Colosseum in the next 50 years, it needs some competent, really private-sector element to it, so it can compete with facilities like the Home Depot Center in Carson and the Rose Bowl and other such entities," he said.

Brown's office and City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, also a Coliseum commissioner, did not return requests for comment. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office declined to comment.

The Coliseum has been engulfed in a financial scandal since February. Citing records and interviews, The Times has reported that two firms run by the Coliseum's then-events manager collected at least $1.8 million from companies that did business with the stadium. Another manager directed Coliseum work to a business he founded, according to stadium invoices and interviews.

At the same time, Coliseum managers have spent thousands of commission dollars on luxury cars, gasoline purchases for their vehicles and other perks.

The district attorney's office is investigating former events manager Todd DeStefano and has served search warrants at his home and the residence of former General Manager Patrick Lynch, who resigned in February. Both men have denied wrongdoing.


USC appears close to winning control of Coliseum

L.A. County supervisors make auditor available for Coliseum

Coliseum officials charged taxpayers thousands for fill-ups

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: An aerial view of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from the Goodyear Blimp. Credit: John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times