USC's Coliseum lease terms approved by Calif. Science Center board

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Andres Aguila/KPCC

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The California Science Center board of directors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a new lease agreement with USC allowing them to oversee the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

This decision comes after the vote was delayed earlier this month. Board members decided they needed more time to review and revise the lease.

One of the biggest points of contention was the allotment of parking spaces to USC for home football games and other special events. Critics of the terms said that by giving hundreds of parking spaces to the private school, the non-profit museum would lose money on its own parking revenue, as well as making it difficult for Angelenos to visit the museum.

At Tuesday's meeting, the science center conference room was overflowing with stakeholders, concerned community members and affiliates of USC and the Expo Park museums. For nearly three hours, people spoke passionately about the lease agreement, many in support of giving USC more control of the Coliseum and its surrounding area.

Many speakers talked about the Coliseum’s heyday, and said they were confident that USC would be able to restore the grounds to pristine conditions. USC students and alumni made reference to the stadium's deteriorating steps and facade, saying that the commission who previously oversaw the grounds dropped the ball on maintenance and improvements.

Jim Baiseri came to the meeting to encourage the science center board to approve the new lease with USC. He said the university is not a "new kid on the block" and has proven multiple times to be a good partner with the city.

“USC has the capacity to identify and assess and be able to maximize and get efficiency out of the dollars that they are planning to spend," said Baiseri. "And it’ll be a more comfortable venue for the people attending and a safer and more comfortable venue in the long run.”

Per USC's agreement with the Coliseum Commission, the school has has agreed to pay at least $70 million in Coliseum improvements, in addition to their yearly rent of $1 million. But some residents are skeptical about how this will impact them, and others believe the lease will only benefit one party: USC.

Community activist Kevin Brown came to the meeting to oppose the plan. A native Angeleno, he first came to Exposition Park when he was 4 years old, and remembers going to football games at the Coliseum when the Rams used to play there.

Brown said he's concerned about the impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
“If we live in a democratic society, why not put it to a vote among the people who live in the area," said Brown. "Put it as a bond measure. Let the people decide, it should not be railroaded through.”

The current lease agreement states that no more than 25 major events – meaning events with an expected attendance of 25,000 people or more – can be held at the Coliseum each year. This includes USC home football games.

When football games are held at the stadium, USC is allowed to use all the parking spaces in Exposition Park, minus 975 spaces that will be reserved for museum visitors. These same rules apply for up to three additional USC special events, other than football games.

Since the new terms were approved by the California Science Center Board of Directors, they will now be incorporated into the lease contract and a final approval vote will be needed.