Coliseum panel again bars public from discussion of proposed USC deal

Coliseum commissioners Barry A. Sanders and Zev Yaroslavsky, also an L.A. County supervisor, speak at a December 2010 meeting.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The public again was excluded Wednesday from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission’s monthly deliberations over a proposed lease that would cede control of the taxpayer-owned stadium to USC.

Government transparency advocates have contended that the scandal-plagued commission’s secret negotiations on the Coliseum pact violate the state’s open-meeting law. The panel’s attorney has said the commission is entitled to hold the talks behind closed doors to protect its bargaining position.

The commission also continued to keep the lease proposal under wraps. A copy The Times obtained is available at

Under the draft agreement, USC would run the Coliseum for up to 42 years in exchange for renovating the 88-year-old landmark, home to the school’s Trojan football team.

Earlier Wednesday, Coliseum Interim General Manager John Sandbrook declined a state official’s request to publicly explain the commission’s decision to relinquish stewardship of the stadium, which is on state-owned land.

“Could you give me the reasons why you’re doing that?” asked Robert Stein, chairman of the California Science Center board, which runs a state museum next door to the stadium and is the Coliseum’s landlord. The question came at a board meeting.

Sandbrook demurred, saying he would speak about the lease proposal only with board representatives in private.

Sports industry experts say the proposed deal is unusual because it would grant a private school control over a public stadium in return for improvements that would mostly benefit the university.

The upgrades would be funded in part with Coliseum revenues. USC would also get naming and advertising rights to the property and an option to operate or replace the companion Sports Arena. A Coliseum parking lot would be included in the package.

Last month, three former Coliseum managers, two rave concert promoters and a stadium contractor were charged in a 29-count indictment alleging bribery, kickbacks, embezzlement and conflicts of interest. Former General Manager Patrick Lynch has pleaded guilty to a single count of conflict of interest to avoid a possible lengthy prison sentence.