The Los Angeles Raiders announced Wednesday that they will begin construction early next year on more than 100 long-awaited luxury boxes at the Coliseum.
If all goes as scheduled, the boxes, which will be built at a cost of more than $10 million along the top north and south edges of the stadium, would be ready for the team's 1987 season, said Al LoCasale, the Raiders' executive assistant.
"I'm ecstatic that the Raiders are now in a position to build the boxes," said Coliseum Commission President William Robertson, who was instrumental in bringing the team from Oakland to Los Angeles.
The boxes--called suites by the Raiders--figured prominently in a controversial $6.7-million package of loans and rental credits that were given to Raiders owner Al Davis to lure the team to Los Angeles after the Rams left the Coliseum for Anaheim Stadium. The funds were to be repaid to the commission, a joint city-county-state agency, through a share of proceeds from the boxes.
Called a 'Gift'
Critics of the loan package, most notably county Supervisor Pete Schabarum, said it amounted to a gift of public funds because it was not clear when, or if, the boxes would actually be constructed and the money returned.
Originally, the boxes were to be built before the 1984 Olympic Games, but the Raiders' drawn-out court battle with the National Football League and the City of Oakland over the move to Los Angeles delayed construction, Raiders and commission officials said.
The recent resolution of the final legal action in favor of the Raiders now allows construction of the boxes to proceed, LoCasale said.
The boxes would rent for $50,000 a year on a five-year lease. Under an agreement with USC, box holders would have use of them for both Raiders and Trojan games, LoCasale said.
Could Generate Millions
If fully leased at those prices, the boxes would generate about $5 million a year and the Coliseum Commission would receive 12% of that, or about $600,000.
It was not immediately clear how the pending tax reform bill in Washington would affect the boxes plan. The bill would phase out their deductibility over three years, which could make them less attractive to corporate clients who would be the most likely customers. But the tax bill reportedly provides exemptions for boxes used at college and university games.
"I don't think it will be a factor," LoCasale said. Robertson predicted that all the boxes would be leased even if the tax deduction is eliminated.
But Schabarum remained dubious that the commission will get its money back. "He'll believe it when he sees it," an aide said.
Robertson said the luxury box funds, coupled with millions more that the commission hopes to receive under an antitrust suit settlement with the NFL, will allow a major renovation of both the Coliseum and the Sports Arena, which is also controlled by the commission.
LoCasale said the revenue from the boxes would help keep costs of tickets "from going out of sight" in the future.
The luxury boxes, which are common in more-modern stadiums, would be built and owned by the Raiders but would revert to the commission if the team moves out of the stadium.
The 16-by-20-foot boxes, which depending on their design, would seat 12 or more people, would be hung in three tiers above the sidelines and would be outfitted with wet bars, lounge areas, seating overlooking the sidelines and color televisions. They would come with private elevator service and VIP parking, according to a Raiders press release.
The boxes are expected to take out a couple of row of seats, but officials said they will not know how many until final plans are completed. About 118 boxes could be built in all, with some reserved for the Raiders, USC and the commission.
As part of the project, the Raiders will build a new, larger press box.