Call it a "minimalist" rebuild of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that USC unveiled first to staff, then the LA Coliseum Commission and the public Thursday afternoon.
It's not the massive $500 million rebuild some had envisioned with essentially a new stadium reconstructed inside the iconic bowl and the even more iconic Peristyle.
The project will cost $270 million, reduce capacity from more than 90,000 to 77,500, start at the end of the 2017 season and be finished by the start of the 2019 season with construction phased so as to allow USC to play in the Coliseum in the 2018 season.
That was a number "We really didn’t want to go below," said USC senior vice-president Todd Dickey, who will oversee the project. "That’s why some of the new aisles don’t go all the way up. The more you do that, the more seats you lose in the stadium. We tried to do a good mix of what we need for football as well as other events and the Olympic games."
Speaking of the 2024 Olympics that LA is bidding for, Dickey said that in order to host the opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field competition, they would need to cover the first 14 rows in dirt and construct the track over that.
It was that sort of talk in front of a standing room only crowd at the Coliseum meeting room that had people recalling the history of two previous Olympics hosted here (in 1932 and 1984) and had former Commission member Tom LaBonge talking of the first time LA bid for the Olympics in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium, and the response from the International Olympic Committee was: "Where's Los Angeles?"
For USC, the investment of $270 million is well above the $67 million it had pledged when USC took over management of the Coliseum two years ago and well ahead by four years of the deadline for doing so.
The two phases will cost $197 million for the seven-level south building with its boxes, suites, press box and concourse and another $73 million for the stadium renovation. Estimates are that the project will create 3,000 construction jobs and 400 permanent ones.
"There are lots of cracks," USC AD Pat Haden said of the Coliseum. "It's falling apart, it's a safety issue," after adding a photo of the Roman Colosseum to the slide show shots of all the maintenance issues at the Coliseum.
"I think the highlight was the need," Haden said of the presentation. "It was built in 1923, and it’s hardly been touched since then. It’s become a stadium in disrepair. I think our fans, our donors, our teams deserve a better venue. Virtually everybody else in the conference has already done that. The time is right for us to do this now."
Haden also referenced a slide of the rest of the Pac-12 school's investment in stadium upgrades with Cal's $321 million rebuild of Memorial Stadium at the top end with Washington's Husky Stadium at $280 million next.
But after Texas A&M's $485 million stadium renovation and Notre Dame's $400 million and the two in the Pac-12, Dickey said USC's renovation project would be in the top five, he said."This is good news we're hearing," Commission President Mark Ridley-Thomas said, talking of how the Coliseum connects the history and culture of present-day LA to its colorful past and the rest of the world.
USC Athletics will have to raise "100 percent" of the $270 million, Dickey said, which is "why we're taking two years." The start of construction is anticipated to be early 2018 right after the 2017 season, Dickey said.
As to the NFL, "No decision has been made," Dickey said, "but they have strongly indicated that they would like a team to play here. We’ve been meeting with them on a regular basis."
Here are the details from the USC's Coliseum Renovaton Website.
$270 million project cost; funded with capital gifts, sponsorship revenue, non-athletic events and donor naming rights.
Stadium enhancements, according to USC, include:
*** Replacing every seat in the bowl
*** Increasing the number of aisles, seat width and tread depth in many sections
*** Restoring the iconic peristyle to more closely resemble the stadium’s original design
*** Adding handrails throughout the stadium for fan safety
*** Constructing a new building on the south side of the stadium with a new concourse, suites, loge boxes, club seating and remodeled press box
*** Improving audio and visual components including two new large screens at the east end of the stadium
*** Upgrading Wi-Fi technology for better connectivity
*** Replacing mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems to meet current standards
*** Installing new field and stadium lighting
More details on the project that USC says will do the following:
*** Renovation will enhance the game day experience and home-field advantage for USC Football while restoring the Coliseum’s standing as a viable public asset for the next century
*** USC is working with LA Conservancy and the National Park Service to maintain the historical landmark status of the Coliseum
*** New construction is expected to begin after the 2017 football season and plan for completion by the home opener in August 2019
*** USC plans to play the in the Coliseum for the 2018 season
*** The renovation does not displace the student section or the band
*** Two-thirds of seats will not require a capital gift or annual donation
*** After construction, capacity is anticipated to be 77,500
For comparison purposes, USC's rebuild is comparable to the $256 million three-year rebuild of Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium currently under way.
When Stanford rebuilt its stadium and dropped capacity from 84,500 to 50,000 and completed it in just over nine months from the end of one season to the start of another. it did so at a cost of $90 million.
The Rose Bowl underwent more than $170 million in renovations over the past three years while keeping its capacity at 92,542.
And finally, Notre Dame, while not at all a comparable comparison with the way that project is being developed with four separate multi-use facilities attached to the four sides of the stadium for academic departments, classrooms, sports/intramural facilities and research institutes, has begun. The $400 million expansion project will add an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 seats and a large video board plus private boxes to the 80,000-capacity stadium.
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