Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, CA
Home of the University of Southern California Trojans
The tour is almost over, we are all a bit weary and the promise of a meal and some cake have our minds wandering to its completion. Hang on though, because we end with one of the most interesting stadiums on our tour – the venerable and historic Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. In addition to being home to the perennially top-ranked USC Trojans, the Coliseum is the only stadium ever to have hosted two Olympics (1932 & 1984), two Super Bowls (the first ever in 1967 & 1973) and one World Series (1959).
The Coliseum is located next to the USC campus in South Central Los Angeles, within the nineteen-acre Exposition Park. Adjacent to Los Angeles Sports Arena, onetime home of the LA Clippers, Exposition Park consists of small sports venues, museums and gardens in addition to the Coliseum. Unlike the slow expansion trajectory of many stadiums we’ve looked at, LA Coliseum is largely the same stadium it was when it was first built in 1923. Named in honor of World War I veterans, the 75,144-seat stadium was expanded to over 100,000-seats in preparation to host the 1932 Olympic Games.
The Los Angeles Coliseum is a single-bowl, east-west oriented stadium (most are north-south), whose most unique feature is an arcaded, peristyle entry on the east end. Although single-bowl, the stadium is accessed by two levels of tunnels that break the seating into three sections. The arcaded entry sits atop the first section, lowering the bowl on the east end. The arcade is topped with the Olympic cauldron, which is lit prior to the fourth quarter at USC games. The slope of the bowl is shallow and for many years the presence of a running track kept fans far from the playing field. Seats behind the east end zone were said to be a full football field away from the field.
A significant renovation took place in 1993 when the track was removed and an additional 8,000 seats were added adjacent to the field, which was lowered by eleven feet. To further enhance the in-stadium atmosphere at this giant facility, new bleachers were added between the east end zone and the peristyle bleachers, bringing fans much closer to the action. In addition, for most games, the majority of seats in the east end are covered up, limiting capacity to only 68,000.
The 1994 LA earthquake caused significant structural damage to the Coliseum. $93 million of repairs got the stadium back up and running but it remains a significantly antiquated facility. Remarkably, despite construction of new press boxes in 1995, the Coliseum has no luxury suites. This is both shocking and refreshing; given that other stadiums on our tour have multi-level buildings with hundreds of suites, not having any luxury suites separating fans into hierarchical zones is significant. While it means that everyone at the Coliseum is in the same boat, this lack of VIP facilities is what drove the Raiders and the Rams to leave LA, and it keeps a new NFL team from returning. USC can attract top players with its rich tradition of success, beautiful weather and the Hollywood scene, so perhaps the need for a renovation and new luxury suites is not as dire as it would be elsewhere. However, I wonder at what point the revenue limit imposed by playing at such a relic will force the University to either renovate or abandon the stadium which has been their home for nearly 100 years.
USC or an NFL franchise may one day come in and renovate the Coliseum, or a new building could be built elsewhere in LA to attract the Trojans with promises of club seating and luxury suites, but for now this historic stadium exists largely as it has since its inception, playing home to the best college football team in the country, and that is cool.
Part of a series on the stadiums of the Top-10 Preseason College Football teams.