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USC's home has new look

Improvements to the Coliseum include a high-definition videoboard, a new sound system and increased seating.

September 12, 2008|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

The big videoboard that looms over the Coliseum's peristyle end has always been tempting for USC players, who admit they glance up from the huddle to watch replays.

"Especially if I know I missed a block," fullback Stanley Havili said. "I want to see what happened."

Now Havili and his teammates will get a clearer view of the good, the bad and the ugly with the debut of a giant high-definition screen, among other upgrades at Saturday's home opener against Ohio State.

During a test run this week, the $2-million board showed crystalline images of rowers gliding across the water while a new $1-million sound system pumped Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

"A lot of these projects we had put on the back burner because of the NFL," Coliseum general manager Pat Lynch said.

Testy negotiations with the university last winter -- USC threatened a move to the Rose Bowl -- persuaded stadium officials to stop waiting for a professional football team in Los Angeles and push ahead with renovations.

Although fans shouldn't expect a complete face-lift of the 85-year-old venue, there will be a 45-foot-wide scoreboard above the tunnel, a regraded field and more concession stands at the northwest corner. Crumbling concrete has been patched and repainted.

New seats at the corners of the east end zone have increased capacity from 92,000 to 93,607. That number is a little misleading because some of the seats have obstructed views. Still, USC administrators released a statement lauding "a Coliseum that is going to be getting better every year."

Keeping USC happy is key because the university can terminate its lease after two years if improvements are not made at an agreed-upon pace.

Lynch says he expects to finance more work by selling naming rights for an estimated $4 million to $6 million annually, a deal that could be finalized in a year or so.

Plans call for further upgrades to concession stands and restrooms, new seats throughout the stadium, and renovated elevators, escalators and locker rooms. The to-do list also includes a videoboard at the west end.

For fans, it's a chance to relive big plays. For players, it's a preview: Will coaches praise or castigate them the following day?

"We all look at the videoboard," receiver Patrick Turner said. "You want to see what it's going to look like on film."

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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