USC’s 95th football season in the Coliseum will be unlike any other. And that will have nothing to do with what happens on the field.
As the Coliseum undergoes its real-time renovation in preparation for a 2019 unveiling, more will be asked of the Trojans fans in particular. USC and Coliseum officials scheduled a news conference Wednesday morning to address the biggest challenges fans will face and what specifically they can do to make 2018’s temporary game-day experience palatable enough to get through it and onto next season, when the fun can really start.
“It will be a season of change for a lot of fans when they come into the Coliseum,” USC athletic director Lynn Swann said. “Everybody will be going through some kind of adjustment, in terms of where they used to sit and to where they’re going to sit this year and how it’s going to change in 2019. Growing pains, if you will."
USC fans and alumni who would have preferred that the athletic department not touch the venerable stadium have been heard, but that ship sailed long ago. Since the end of the Rams’ 2017 season in January, 12,514 cubic yards of concrete have been poured; 2,131 tons of structural steel have been used; and 46,000 cubic yards of dirt have been exported.
All of this comes in the name of progress — if you are willing to define progress as spending a lot of money now to make a lot more money over the coming decades thanks to new revenue streams created from building luxury boxes — and USC would prefer that the process doesn’t have to be that painful.
Kevin Daly, Coliseum director of events and customer service, laid out the key things fans should know going into USC’s Sept. 1 opener against Nevada Las Vegas:
The construction on the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, to the Coliseum’s west side, has taken away 1,000 parking spaces. Exposition Park now offers permit parking only, no cash lots. There will be additional parking available on the USC campus with varying rates. Because of the construction, fans can no longer enter the park from 39th Street and will need to enter from Exposition Boulevard or West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Because of the construction of the seven-story Scholarship Club Tower on the Coliseum’s south side, fans who would normally enter the stadium at gates 6, 7 and 8 will now enter at 5 and 9. To avoid any confusion, USC has issued tickets featuring an assigned gate number for entry. The whole construction zone will not allow for walking traffic, which means fans won’t be able to walk around the outside of the entire Coliseum.
Daly gave some simple suggestions for how to maximize this year’s reality: Take the Los Angeles Metro’s Expo Line to the game instead of driving. If you drive, carpool with friends. Plan ahead, mapping out your route ahead of time and follow live updates to traffic on your smartphone. Leave your tailgate for the stadium earlier than you normally would. It will be slower with fewer gates. Follow the stadium’s bag policy and don’t conceal items at security to keep the line moving.
“Just showing up here and doing what you used to do isn’t going to do as well as you might expect,” Daly said.
“The biggest change for fans is they have to get ready for a brand new Coliseum. It’s going to be awesome. They’re going to come in and see those new seats and picture it around the entire bowl and realize this isn’t the venue your grandfather came to. We’ve elevated the experience, and we’re getting ready for a whole new era here.”
Week of crowd noise
USC’s 11-on-11 work this week has come with mock crowd noise piped in through the speakers at Howard Jones Field. Part of the emphasis is the Trojans’ September trips to Stanford, Texas and Arizona. But it’s also a good way to see how players are developing mentally since they can’t hear the coaches’ corrections from the sideline.
“I’ve been there as an assistant coach,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “It’s so hard not to help when you get the play signal in and you see that guy not aligned perfectly and try to get him coached up. We also have to see the reality of who’s doing things right and who’s not quite there yet. So this week is about that. We’ve got pretty much the entire playbook in. We’re going to see who’s got it without the coaches.”