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Coliseum Work on Schedule, Under Budget


After years of delays and aborted plans, a scaled-down Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum renovation costing $15 million is well under way, on schedule and "a little under budget," officials said Wednesday.

The renovation, which once was expected to cost as much as $200 million, is due for completion by the weekend of Sept. 4, when the USC Trojans and the Los Angeles Raiders are scheduled to open their home seasons.

On Wednesday, work crews began pouring concrete for the platform that will hold 2,400 seats. They will be constructed at the stadium's peristyle end, just 40 feet from the east end zone. Project manager Don Webb told Coliseum commissioners that the Raiders plan to sell them out by offering them at a $15 game price.

The main aim of the renovation is to create a more intimate stadium by reducing the capacity and bringing the seats closer to the field. This will be done by lowering the Coliseum floor by 11 feet, removing thousands of ill-placed seats and covering others. More than 8,000 seats will be added at the lower levels.

The new capacity for Raider games will be 68,000. But for the big USC games against UCLA and Notre Dame, the seats to be covered with retractable fabric will be uncovered and the capacity of the 70-year-old facility will revert to approximately the present 92,000.

Since Feb. 17, when work began, the excavation of 80,000 cubic yards of dirt has been completed and the foundations have been laid for the 14 new rows of seats. A huge crane rests on the new field level and pipe sections are ready to be implanted for drainage purposes.

Other work is going on in the western tunnel area, the usual entrance into the stadium for teams and bands. Because the field level is being lowered, the angle of the tunnel is being increased and its ceiling lowered at the entrance to allow placement of several new rows of seats.

The project has gone forward so quickly that final plans are still to be drawn for landscaping the east end of the stadium where seats will be removed.

But Webb said nothing should stand in the way of finishing construction by about Aug. 1. It will take an additional month to re-sod and prepare the field for the game between USC and the University of Houston.

The contract with Tutor-Saliba requires the contractor to finish the project on time for the maximum price of $15 million as long as no changes that would require additional spending are ordered by the Coliseum Commission. Webb said that so far there have been no such instances.

Webb said his calculations show the project is running slightly under budget. Commissioner William Robertson said Wednesday that $3,239,000 has been paid to the contractors thus far.

Webb noted that while the maximum distance from the sidelines to the first row of seats between the goal posts in the old stadium was 120 feet, the new maximum will be 54 feet.

Raider owner Al Davis has long sought a stadium contour that would bring the fans closer to the play and create a more emotional atmosphere. The new lower capacity also should allow the Raiders to more often meet the sellout requirements for local television coverage.

The renovation is being financed with cash won by the Coliseum Commission in its suit against the National Football League several years ago for impeding the move of the Raiders to Los Angeles from Oakland.

But financing will have to be sought for a proposed second phase of renovation, which would include placing luxury boxes on the Coliseum rim and building a new press box.

Coliseum officials hope to be able to begin this phase in 1994. But Robertson said Wednesday that with a new Los Angeles mayor slated to take office this summer, some commissioners, including himself, probably will be replaced, leaving the project under new direction.

It was Robertson and Commission President N. Matthew Grossman who were primarily responsible for the scaled-down renovation after a private consortium the commission had retained to pursue the more costly plans quit, saying the recession had dried up its financing.

Those plans called for an upper deck to be added to the facility, and thousands of high-priced club seats. The scaled-down plan, by contrast, generally retains the bowl-like appearance of the stadium.

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