Sometimes a Punt Is Best : With club-seat sales low, a delay in Coliseum project is prudent

No one who is aware of the downward trends in the local and national economy these days--and that means almost everybody--can be too surprised that premium seats in the soon-to-be-remodeled Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum are not selling like hot cakes.

At $3,600 per seat, after all, the elite club seats are expensive, even if they do include a ticket for every Raider and USC home football game in a given season. To date, fewer than 1,000 of a planned 10,000 club seats have been sold.

At first glance, that might seem like cause for concern to only a relatively small group of sports fans. But a continued slow pace of sales could have a ripple effect that eventually reaches the average taxpayer. That's because the Coliseum is a public facility, jointly owned and operated by the State of California and Los Angeles city and county governments. And though almost all agree that the 63-year-old stadium badly needs to be refurbished, it's also agreed that government can't afford to pay for the work. A healthy pre-sale of premium seats is needed so the private company that wants to rebuild the Coliseum, Spectacor Management Limited Partnership, can get the financing it needs.

As of now, a state-of-the-art Coliseum face lift is expected to cost $175 million, and it's safe to assume that formidable figure will become higher as the project is delayed. But sometimes a short delay--like a punt in football--is sound strategy.

That's why nobody can fault Spectacor for its decision to suspend plans for the Coliseum project while it reassesses its marketing effort. The Raiders and USC should consider doing the same thing. If the rethinking results in lower prices that bring club seats within the reach of more fans, it could be the strategy that gets the ball rolling (so to speak) toward a "new" Coliseum.

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