Coliseum, Sports Arena Report Strong '87 Attendance

Times Staff Writer

For the often beleaguered Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum complex, which has lost so many teams over the years, 1987 turns out to have been a pretty good year for attendance.

According to figures provided by the Coliseum Commission, 2.6 million patrons were entertained in the Coliseum and Sports Arena last year, including 1.3 million at the Sports Arena, which had its largest number of customers since 1967.

The event that drew the most people to the facilities was the Mass that Pope John Paul II conducted Sept. 15 at the Coliseum. The 103,854 who packed in for the Mass made up the fifth-largest crowd in the 64-year history of the Coliseum. The record crowd occurred on Sept. 8, 1963, when 134,254 people attended a service conducted by the Rev. Billy Graham.

Tickets to the papal Mass were distributed free through Los Angeles-area Roman Catholic parishes, although some were later reportedly scalped for amounts ranging up to several hundred dollars.

In all, the Coliseum Commission's report said, 34 events were held at the Coliseum in 1987 and 207 at the Sports Arena.

A two-night Coliseum appearance by the Irish rock band U2 on Nov. 17 and 18 produced the single-largest-grossing gate in the United States for 1987, at $2.59 million.

The 91,228 fans who turned out for the USC-UCLA football game Nov. 21 was the highest Coliseum crowd for that rivalry in 22 years.

For the Sports Arena, attendance last year marked the fourth straight annual increase, since a low point of 576,000 was reached in 1983.

Senior Assistant General Manager Glenn E. Mon said Monday that the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball franchise, wrestling, the Ringling Bros. circus and the Disney ice show, as well as the Sunkist indoor track meet, had all contributed to the Sports Arena's good year, as did 15 concerts. Concert attendance was the best since 1981.

Attendance at several Sports Arena religious gatherings last year totaled 101,932.

In the mid-1960s, before the Forum was built and the Sports Arena was the home of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, the Sports Arena attracted as many as 2 million patrons a year. At the same time, the Rams and UCLA football teams played in the Coliseum, keeping complex attendance in those days hovering around 4 million, Mon said.

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