USC, commission post term sheet for modified Coliseum lease

In the name of transparency, USC and the Coliseum Commission released on their websites Wednesday copies of the term sheet for a modified Coliseum lease, one that would give the university operational control of the venue.

The 16-page document is nonbinding and the first step toward a lease agreement likely to be negotiated within the next two months. Under the proposed terms, USC would spend more than $50 million to bring the stadium up to campus standards and would make the venue available for community events for a minimum of eight days a year. Typically, the Coliseum has been used for such events two or three times per year.

“It’s not a done deal because we still have to negotiate a lease, but assuming this works out, USC would take over the obligation to make the improvements to the venue that will enable future generations to enjoy the facility,” said Tom Sayles, USC’s senior vice president for university relations.

“We think it’s a good deal for two reasons. One, the city, community and university will get a much improved stadium. And two, the public will get more access to it.”

Not everyone on the Coliseum Commission agrees.

City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, a commission member, said he believed the lease would give too much control to USC.


“It’s not a good deal,” Parks said. He said he was pleased the public would have an opportunity to comment on the terms before a final vote.

Commissioners said the deal with USC must happen because the Coliseum can’t afford to run the place anymore.

Supervisor Don Knabe, another commissioner, said the deal with USC must go through “to save this place. To put the kind of money into it that will be necessary to make it a world-class facility. ... It’s totally beyond us as a commission to do that thing. We just don’t have the revenue base.”

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, another commission member, said, “The future of the Coliseum runs through USC. There are no other major tenants that this facility has or is going to have in the foreseeable future. … The only future for the Coliseum to remain a functioning viable venue for athletic events is the University of Southern California. Without this kind of a deal, the Coliseum is going to be a museum piece.”

Yaroslavsky said in exchange for USC’s running the day-to-day affairs of the historic stadium, the university will commit to put tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the stadium, “something that we couldn’t do.”

“This is a sound deal,” Yaroslavsky said.

Commission President David Israel blamed the dire financial situation on the former managers of the Coliseum, whose irregular business dealings were the subject of numerous Times stories since February.

“Because we were the victim of a criminal conspiracy, we believe, that will be proven in court, that defrauded us out of millions of dollars. That money would have been used to maintain the place, to keep the operation going,” Israel said.

The term sheet guarantees the commission 90 free tickets to USC games and guarantees access to a “hospitality area.”

Also, the staff of about 40 working at the Coliseum now would become university employees.