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Coliseum postpones USC decision

December 7, 2011 | 10:45 pm

Photo: An aerial view of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from the Goodyear Blimp on May 27, 2010. Credit: John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission on Wednesday postponed taking a critical step to hand day-to-day control of the publicly owned stadium to USC.

The commission will instead hold a special meeting Dec. 21 to continue discussing the matter.

Earlier in the day, the Los Angeles City Council voted 13 to 0 to call on the Coliseum Commission to hold off settling on deal points in a proposed new lease with USC.

Todd R. Dickey, senior vice president for administration, said USC is willing to invest significant money into the Coliseum in return for the right to manage the public venue.

"Without significant repairs, the Coliseum will continue to deteriorate," Dickey said. "By committing to a new modified lease, the university is willing to ensure that the Coliseum remains a viable facility available for the community for decades to come."

Dickey also agreed to offer up the Coliseum for community events, make it available for the Olympic Games or as a temporary home should an NFL team relocate to Los Angeles.

The commission's push for a new agreement with USC comes amid the Coliseum's growing financial troubles, leaving the panel unable to pay for badly need renovations. The upgrades were promised to USC in its current lease, which was approved three years ago.

The money problems have been compounded by an ongoing conflict-of-interest scandal at the Coliseum, which erupted in February after The Times began reporting on a series of financial irregularities.

One commissioner, City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, opposes the deal, saying any agreement should be "thoroughly vetted" by the state, county and city, which jointly operate the Coliseum and companion Sports Arena.

Parks also criticized the secret negotiations between USC and three Coliseum commissioners: the panel's president, David Israel; County Supervisor Don Knabe; and a city parks board member, Johnathan Williams.

"It is important to have this decision properly and publicly vetted," said Parks, whose council district includes the Coliseum. "Both the Coliseum and [adjacent] Sports Arena are public assets located on public land, which are best managed and overseen by elected representatives of the public....

"Transferring management and operations of these public assets to a private entity, even if it is a university, raises legitimate concerns over accountability to the public in their day-to-day operations and prevents the public from having a voice in the operations and future development of these assets," Parks said.

The discussion of a new lease agreement with USC was held privately. No reason was given for the delay.

It’s possible that on Dec. 21, the nine-member commission will not take a vote on the deal points, but would direct its attorneys to draft a formal agreement.

When complete, the draft would be posted and subject to a public vote next year, according to officials. But it was not immediately clear how much time the public would have to review the deal.


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--- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Photo: An aerial view of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from the Goodyear Blimp on May 27, 2010. Credit: John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times