Sell the Coliseum? No way
In a May 4 Times Op-Ed article, Republican state Sen. Jeff Denham, who represents a district in the Central Valley, plugs his proposed legislation to sell the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and dissolve the commission that manages it. Denham’s faulty premise is that selling the Coliseum would be a good way to generate cash for the state. His proposal is a myopic, irresponsible one that chases after potential short-term profits at the expense of long-term benefits for both Los Angeles and the state.
The Coliseum has been the beating heart of Los Angeles’ cultural and sporting life since the day it opened in 1923. But the Coliseum is not just a historic landmark; it is a money-making enterprise that generates about $1 million in rent and about $2 million more in parking revenue for California annually. The state reaps this windfall each year without any actual investment because the Coliseum does not receive subsidies. Unlike the vast majority of municipal sports facilities in the U.S., the Coliseum turns a profit.
These profits are reinvested right back into the building in the form of significant capital improvements, including a $100-million-plus renovation program that is underway -- and ahead of schedule. Current modernization efforts include a new, state-of-the-art sound system, a high-definition LED-screen video board, a new elevator and field work. Starting this year, Coliseum spectators also will find upgrades to restrooms and concession stands, better lighting on the field and more elevators and entry points to the facility.
All of these improvements were paid for with the Coliseum’s own earnings, continuing its track record as a self-sustaining enterprise.
Sports fans know the Coliseum as the proud home of the USC Trojans. It’s also been the site of two Super Bowls, a World Series, many important international soccer games and has the distinction of being the only stadium in the world to play host to the Summer Olympics twice. The Coliseum, however, serves more than sports fans. It hosts major fundraisers such as Revlon Run/Walk for breast cancer research, and Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass during his visit to Los Angeles in 1987. Overall, the Coliseum complex hosts 200 events each year, including concerts, expositions, pageants and film shoots.
Further, the Coliseum hosts more multicultural events than any other venue in Los Angeles. With a well-trained, multilingual staff, the Coliseum plays an integral role in the rich, diverse cultural life of the Southern California community it serves.
The Coliseum Commission, an unpaid group of civic leaders representing the state, L.A. County and the city of L.A., continues to oversee management of the Coliseum complex while meeting the needs of the community and making a profit in the process. Rather than trying to sell off the Coliseum, perhaps Denham should spend some time figuring out how more state assets can be run as effectively as this one.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission.
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