Championing a Renewed Coliseum

Seated in a gilded corner office at one of the city's most powerful law firms--Manatt, Phelps & Phillips--senior partner Lisa Specht exudes energy and elan. With no social pedigree or college degree when she zoomed into prominence three decades ago, the distinguished government and land-use attorney is a champion of civic causes and the rights of women and children. In February, Specht became president of the nine-member Los Angeles Coliseum Commission. We spoke about the Coliseum's importance to Los Angeles.

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Tell us about your new role on the Coliseum Commission.

I want to make Exposition Park more family oriented. I'm interested in more opportunities for soccer--250,000 people came out just for soccer last year. I want to interlock the Coliseum with other institutions in the park. As a center we offer a lot more activities than [New York's] Central Park. There's the California Science Center, the African American Museum, the Rose Garden, the Natural History Museum. I want to see people picnicking there.

Why is the Coliseum important to L.A.?

It's a historic monument. It's breathtaking. To be there is like being a tourist in Rome. It's that magnificent. Most of the events that are held at the park are free. The science center and the African American Museum are free. For the community, it is the place to feed the mind and body and spirit.

Why isn't Exposition Park used more as a family center?

We have to market the park. I've volunteered my husband [Ron Rogers], who is brilliant and has a PR firm, to help us. My focus is not getting the NFL to the Coliseum. I'd love to have the NFL, we'd all love it. But we have so many other cultural attractions, too. About 900,000 people came to the Coliseum last year without a team. We have the parking, it is safe, and it is close in.

Why take on another demanding position?

I'm fortunate to have the time to do it. I have no children. I do it because it's fun and satisfying. I'm having the time of my life. I never set foot in college. I took a college equivalency [test], and went to the San Fernando Valley College of Law--which is not considered the Harvard of the West. I went on to be editor of the law review [there] and was top of the class. Growing up, there was always a wolf at the door. My family was a mess. That's probably why I see the poor and the elderly and work for justice. I want to help.

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