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Coliseum rent deal opens door

Agreement between state and commission could smooth the way for deal to keep USC at stadium.

December 22, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

State officials announced Friday they have agreed in principle to a rent agreement with the Coliseum Commission and now have turned their attention to bridging the impasse between the commission and USC.

The state owns the 84-year-old stadium and rents it to the commission, which in turn rents it to tenants, the largest of which is USC.

Over the next 47 years, the state will receive no less than $1 million in annual rent from the commission. For each of the past 52 years, the commission has paid less than $100,000 a year. The state had the option to raise the rent to as much as $2 million annually. The deal is expected to be finalized Jan. 9.

Having cleared this hurdle, the state offered to assist in negotiations between the commission and USC, which has threatened to move its home football games from the Coliseum to the Rose Bowl.

The three parties met Friday, and the Coliseum Commission submitted a counterproposal to USC, which the school is reviewing. The commission and USC have agreed to meet again Thursday. "We're closer," said Todd Dickey, USC senior vice president and general counsel. "We're not there yet, but I'm optimistic."

Dickey said that having the rent issue resolved between the state and commission is "good news . . . that can only help in the process of getting our deal done. Now that is no longer a reason for us not getting an agreement."

USC typically plays six games a year at the Coliseum, and it pays 8% of ticket sales in rent, generally about $1.5 million a season.

Pat Lynch, general manager of the Coliseum, said reaching an agreement with the state is "wonderful" and should make USC negotiations "simpler" because the commission can focus solely on those.

"We talked to them today," he said of school negotiators. "It was all positive. We're all working positively, we're all optimistic."

Amanda Fulkerson, a communications director with the state, said the state was happy to get involved.

"We're looking forward to an agreement that will keep the Trojans playing where they should be," she said.

The state met with the Coliseum Commission on Monday. "When the state showed leadership and had this closed-door meeting Monday, we got results," Fulkerson said. "Part of that was the Coliseum Commission being open with the state to having us come in and be part of the negotiations. We've been proven effective and we're happy to help."

County Supervisor Yvonne Burke said at a recent commission meeting that lagging rent negotiations with the state were, in part, holding up negotiations with USC, but the state has long contended that its negotiations with the Coliseum are separate to those between the Coliseum and the school.

"We're happy to have struck a fair deal for the rent on these Los Angeles landmarks," said commission President Bernard C. Parks, an L.A. city councilman. "We'll use this momentum to continue to engage USC officials and look forward to coming to an agreement very soon on the sublease terms that will keep the Trojans playing and winning at our great complex."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a statement, thanked Parks and the commission "for working diligently with state officials to come to an agreement that is fair and beneficial to all parties, and for meeting our goal to have an agreement by the end of the year. This is fantastic news for the people of Los Angeles and all Californians."

USC's most recent proposal to the Coliseum was to allow the commission to continue running the stadium as long as it agreed to a four-year timetable for improvements, which would cost roughly $50 million. The commission this week responded that that proposal was weighted too heavily in favor of USC.

Staff writer David Wharton contributed to this report.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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