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USC-Coliseum deal is finalized

May 15, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Fight on? Not anymore. USC and the Coliseum Commission have worked through their differences, and Wednesday signed off on their first long-term lease, one that will keep the Trojans playing football at the historic stadium for decades to come.

It was six months ago that USC, frustrated with the lack of progress on much-needed improvements to the 84-year-old Coliseum, threatened to relocate its games to the Rose Bowl. That triggered some harsh words and bruised feelings on both sides, all of which seems to have evaporated with this deal.

"I think the way the negotiations went over the last 90 days, it's clear that this is a new era," said Kristina Raspe, USC's associate senior vice president for real estate and asset management. "We've put the past behind us and are really working together."

With a signed deal in hand, both parties have reason to be happy and relieved.

What USC gets

A 25-year deal that can be extended to 47, matching the commission's lease with the state, which owns the land on which the Coliseum sits.

Veto rights over an NFL team returning to the stadium, which means the school can ensure the seating capacity never drops below 90,000. The NFL prefers smaller stadiums.

Significant improvements to the Coliseum, new video displays, concession areas, seating, drainage systems, locker rooms, elevators and escalators -- all without having to dig into school coffers to pay for it. USC had originally offered to pay for $100 million in improvements for the right to control the stadium.

A seat on the nine-member commission and board of the California Science Center.

The right to terminate the agreement after two years if the stadium improvements are not being made at an agreed-upon pace. The school can also opt to pay for the improvements itself, then be repaid with interest.

What commission gets

The ability to use USC's name, logos and images as part of a potentially lucrative naming-rights deal. But money from any such deal must be used to upgrade the Coliseum.

Basically the same lease terms as it had before this deal: 8% of USC ticket sales, which last year amounted to $1.6 million.

A stable, credit-worthy, long-term tenant.

No NFL?

Not necessarily. Although the NFL has made it clear it has no intention of returning to the Coliseum, billionaire developer Ed Roski has investigated the possibility of putting a team there for two seasons if/when he's building his stadium in City of Industry.

Schedule of upgrades

Year 1: The installation of a new video display and scoreboard, as well as various safety improvements.

Year 2: Improvements to the sound and lighting systems, and upgrades to the elevator and escalators.

Year 3: Upgrades to the existing restrooms and concession stands, and the addition of more of both.

Year 4: Replacement of the fencing that surrounds the stadium for improved entry and exit procedures; new seating and the repair of all concrete around the venue.

Year 5: Grade and replace the field and drainage system.

By Year 10: Install a state-of-the-art video board on the west end of the Coliseum and upgrade all locker rooms.

Quote of note

"This is a great thing and it gets us all on the 'Kumbaya' page. USC has been a tenant since 1923. Nothing should ever happen to jeopardize that." -- longtime Coliseum Commission member Bill Chadwick.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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