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Coliseum unveils proposed lease with USC

The Coliseum would surrender public control of the historic stadium to the university, according to the proposed 42-year lease.

April 18, 2012|By Rong-Gong Lin II and Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times
  • A Trojan fan plays catch outside the Coliseum. The Coliseum Commission unveiled Tuesday a proposed lease with USC.
A Trojan fan plays catch outside the Coliseum. The Coliseum Commission… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

After months of secret negotiations that drew fire from open-government advocates, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission unveiled a proposed lease Tuesday that would surrender public control of the historic stadium to USC.

The move comes as the taxpayer-owned venue's finances continue to deteriorate. In the 12 months ending in February, the Coliseum Commission has lost about $1.4 million, according to its financial statements.

The losses came despite new business the stadium and the companion Sports Arena attracted, such as temporarily hosting UCLA basketball.

The draft 42-year lease released Tuesday is similar to a copy The Times obtained and posted on its website April 4.


USC ultimately wants control of the stadium for 99 years. The Coliseum Commission can sublease the property to the private school until 2054. After that, the stadium could be taken over by the state, which owns the land underneath. USC is separately negotiating a deal with the state to extend the lease.

One recent change in the draft is an agreement to generally limit events attracting more than 25,000 people to 25 a year. The state and county museums near the Coliseum have expressed concern that too many large events will overwhelm the parking lots.

USC also intends to lease state-owned parking lots around the Coliseum.


For its part of the deal, USC would assume about $1 million in annual rent payments the Coliseum makes to the state. The university has said it would invest $70 million to renovate the dilapidated stadium, home to Trojan football.

Some outside experts have called the proposed lease extraordinary, saying USC would reap most of the benefit of the upgrades that represent the school's main contribution to the agreement.

Commissioners who support the pact said it would ensure the stadium's future for the Trojans.

The commissioners have negotiated perks for themselves. The nine panel members would get the equivalent of 10 free tickets each to every Trojan contest at the stadium, plus premium parking and access to a VIP hospitality area on game days.

Last month, criminal charges were filed against three former Coliseum managers, two prominent rave concert promoters and a stadium janitorial contractor. The district attorney's investigation into a rash of alleged bribery, kickbacks and conflicts of interest grew out of Times reports on financial irregularities at the stadium.

The commission could vote on the proposed lease as early as May 2.

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, who last week released a scathing audit report on the commission, said she was not surprised by the agency's ongoing financial troubles.

"The findings that they are losing money is consistent with what our audit found, that they were not managing the Coliseum in a way that was ... meeting their financial obligations," Greuel said.

The commission's interim general manager, John Sandbrook, did not respond Tuesday to emailed questions about the draft lease.

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