Message from Mike Garrett about the Coliseum / USC Athletics
November 28, 2007
Dear Fellow Alumni:
It gives me no pleasure to write a letter of this kind, but there are issues facing our university which you need to understand. The University of Southern California has been negotiating diligently for months, trying to renew USC's lease with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and trying to get guarantees that USC's football team and fans can enjoy home games in a completely renovated and improved stadium.
Unfortunately, talks are at an impasse, and right now we have no lease for the Coliseum next year. As a precaution, USC has negotiated a lease with the Rose Bowl to ensure that we have an acceptable stadium in which to play our home football games for the foreseeable future. But this arrangement is not what we want. We want our football program to remain at the Coliseum. And we want the Coliseum Commission-our "landlords" who manage the stadium-to begin the long overdue rehabilitation of the Coliseum.
You all know the many things which need attention:
1. Complete replacement of concession facilities to afford modern food and beverage services like those offered at all major stadiums.
2. Replacement of, and additions to, the currently inadequate restroom facilities.
3. All new, state-of-the-art video and score boards.
4. Replacement of the grossly inadequate sound system.
5. Improved access through renovated and replaced stairs, elevators and escalators.
6. Repair of crumbling concrete stairs, walkways and infrastructure.
7. Replacement of all seats.
8. Reconfiguration of entry gates in order to move fans in and out of the stadium safely and efficiently.
This is not just about people's comfort and enjoyment; it's about the long-term viability of the structure. It's old and worn out. And it is not being used to its fullest potential by the wider community.
USC has been waiting-I believe patiently-ten years for the Commission to do this, but they have not taken the necessary steps, and they will not promise to do so anytime soon. For a decade the nine-member Coliseum Commission has hoped to attract an NFL franchise to the stadium. Their plan has been that the NFL would pay for renovations. There was a clear message from the NFL last summer stating that "notwithstanding all of our best efforts to identify a mutually acceptable solution, we have determined that the Coliseum renovation project, as currently contemplated, would create significant economic risks for the NFL such that we are not prepared to move forward with the project at this time."
The Coliseum Commission asked USC to submit a proposal. So we did. We made to them what I think is an amazing offer. USC offered to spend $100 million to repair and improve the stadium on a ten-year plan, phasing in renovations each year. In return, we requested a master lease that would allow us to play football in the Coliseum for many years. We asked to participate in making decisions regarding the Coliseum and to be given opportunities that would allow us to offset our outlay of money by controlling more of the stadium's revenues. And we'd help make sure the Coliseum has a full life all year round, with entertainment and sporting events, both large and small, not just the six home games for the USC football team.
But the Coliseum Commission rejected our offer.
Our team deserves a great stadium. So do our fans. So do the people of Los Angeles.
The Coliseum Commission is made up of representatives from the city, the county, and the state. They need to know how you feel about this. I believe that our voices will be heard if we work through our elected officials. I urge you to e-mail, fax, or phone the appropriate official asking them to:
1. Let USC direct and fund the Coliseum's refurbishment in partnership with the city, the county, and the state.
2. Let USC, in collaboration with the Coliseum Commission, determine and perform vital repairs while ensuring steady income to offset expenses and upkeep.
3. Let USC be more than a tenant. (USC already brings in 60 percent of the Commission's revenue and that has been the only steady tenant for 80 years! ) We seek to be a key player in the preservation and enhancement of this great civic treasure and historic landmark. Remind them that for 80 years USC has stayed while other teams have gone, and that our home games spark spending in the neighborhood each fall to the tune of approximately $5 million. And that, in total, USC contributes $4 billion to the local economy each year.
If you'd like to join me in taking action, click here for the names of the people to contact.
Your support and commitment to the University of Southern California is invaluable. Together, let's continue to work hard to keep the USC football program in our beloved Coliseum.
Thank you for caring about this issue and for expressing your concerns.
Michael L. Garrett '67
Director of Athletics
University of Southern California
Thanks to reader and contributer Woody for the heads-up.