The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a large outdoor sports stadium in the University Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California at Exposition Park that has hosted two Olympics and is home to the University of Southern California Trojans football team. It is located next to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena adjacent to the campus of the University of Southern California (USC). The stadium is owned by the State of California and is currently being leased (and managed) by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission.
Present Use[edit | edit source]
The Coliseum is now primarily the home of the USC Trojan football team. During the recent stretch of its success in football, most of USC's regular home games, especially the alternating games with rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, attract a capacity 92,000 person crowd, although they regularly drew far less during the 1990s. The current official capacity of the Coliseum is 92,516. The Coliseum Commission also rents the Coliseum to various events, including international soccer games, musical concerts and other large outdoor events.
Olympic Cauldron[edit | edit source]
The Olympic Cauldron (also known as the Olympic Torch) was built for the stadium's two Olympic games. It is still lit during the fourth quarter of USC football games, and other special occasions (e.g., when the Olympics are being held in another city). In 2004, the cauldron was lit non-stop for seven days in tribute to Ronald Reagan, who had died; and it was lit again in April 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II, who had celebrated Mass at the Coliseum during his visit to Los Angeles in 1987. The torch was also lit for over a week following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
History[edit | edit source]
Events[edit | edit source]
The two most notable events to take place at the Coliseum were the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympic Games, where the stadium served as the primary track and field venue and site of the opening and closing ceremonies.
In addition, many events have been held at the Coliseum over the years; below are some of the more notable. For nearly 60 years, it served as the home football stadium for both the USC Trojans (the main campus being across the street) and the UCLA Bruins. In the fall of 1982, with the Oakland Raiders scheduled to move in, UCLA decided to move out, relocating its home games to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. USC's agreement to play all its home games at the Coliseum was a contributing factor to its original construction.
The former Cleveland Rams of the National Football League relocated to the Coliseum in 1946, becoming the Los Angeles Rams; but the team later relocated again, first to Anaheim in 1980, then to St. Louis, Missouri in 1995. The Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference played in the Coliseum from 1946 to 1949, when the conference merged with the NFL and the Dons franchise was folded. In 1960 the American Football League's Los Angeles Chargers played at the Coliseum before relocating to San Diego the next year.
Among other sporting events held at the Coliseum over the years was Major League Baseball, which was held at the Coliseum when the former Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League relocated to Los Angeles in 1958. The Dodgers played here until Dodger Stadium was completed in time for the 1962 season, despite the fact that the Coliseum's one-tier, oval bowl shape was extremely poorly-suited to baseball. A fence was erected in left field due to the abnormally short distance from home plate. At its highest point at the foul pole, the fence was 42 feet high.  From baseball's point of view, the locker rooms were huge, because they were designed for football (not baseball) teams.
In 1959, the fence figured in the National League pennant race. The Milwaukee Braves were playing the Dodgers in the Coliseum on September 15, 1959, and Joe Adcock hit a ball into the screen leading off the top of the 5th inning. The umpires ruled it a ground-rule double. Adcock was left on base. The game was tied at the end of nine innings and the Dodgers won it in the tenth inning.  At the end of the regular season, the Dodgers and Braves finished in a tie. If Adcock's hit had been ruled a home run, the Braves may have won the game and could have gone on to win the pennant by one game.
Although ill-suited as a Major League Baseball field, with its left field line at 251 feet (77 m) and power alley at 320 feet (98 m), it was ideally suited for large paying crowds. Each of the three games of the 1959 World Series played there drew over 92,706 fans, a record unlikely to be challenged anytime soon, given the smaller seating capacities of today's baseball parks. A May 1959 exhibition game between the Dodgers and the New York Yankees in honor of legendary catcher Roy Campanella drew 93,103, the largest crowd ever to see a baseball game in the Western Hemisphere. The Coliseum also hosted the second 1959 MLB All-Star Game.
The Coliseum was also the site of John F. Kennedy's memorable acceptance speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. It was during that speech that Kennedy first used the term "the New Frontier."
The Rams hosted the 1949, 1951 and the 1955 NFL championship games at the Coliseum. The Coliseum was the site of the very first NFL-AFL Championship Game in January 1967, an event since renamed the Super Bowl. It also hosted the Super Bowl in 1973. The venue was also the site of the NFL Pro Bowl from 1951-1972 and again in 1979.
In July 1972, the Coliseum hosted the Super Bowl of Motocross. The event was the first motocross race held inside a stadium. It has evolved into the American Motorcyclist Association Supercross championship held in stadiums across the United States and Canada.
The Coliseum was also home to the United States Football League's Los Angeles Express between 1983 and 1985. In this capacity, the stadium also is the site of the longest professional American football game in history; a triple-overtime game on June 30, 1984 (a few weeks before the start of the 1984 Summer Olympics) between the Express and the Michigan Panthers, which was decided on a 24-yard game winning touchdown by Mel Gray of the Express, 3:33 into the third overtime to give Los Angeles a 27-21 win.
In 1982 the former Oakland Raiders moved in, however this team subsequently returned to Oakland in 1995, leaving the Coliseum without a professional football tenant for the first time since the close of World War II. The most recent pro football tenant has been the short-lived Los Angeles Xtreme, the first and only champion of the XFL.
The stadium hosted several matches, including the semi-finals and final, of the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer tournament. The United States national team beat Honduras in the final. The Coliseum also staged the final match of the Gold Cup in the 1996, 1998, and 2000 tournaments.
Structure[edit | edit source]
The official ground breaking ceremony took place on December 21, 1921 with work being completed less than two years later, on May 1, 1923. When the Coliseum opened in 1923, it was already the largest stadium in Los Angeles with a capacity of 76,000. However, with the arrival of the Olympics only ten years later, the stadium was expanded to 101,574 and the now-signature torch was added. For a time it was known as Olympic Stadium. The Olympic cauldron torch which burned through both Games remains above the peristyle at one end of the stadium as a reminder of this, as do the Olympic rings symbols over one of the main entrances. The scoreboard and video screen that tower over the peristyle date back to 1983; they replaced a smaller scoreboard installed in 1972, which in turn supplanted the 1937 model, one of the first electric scoreboards in the nation. Over the years new light towers have been placed along the north and south rims. The analog clock and thermometer over the office windows at either end of the peristyle were installed in 1956. Between the peristyle arches are plaques recognizing many of the memorable events and participants in Coliseum history, including a full list of 1932 and 1984 Olympic gold medalists.
A pair of life-sized bronze nude statues of male and female athletes atop a 20,000 pound (9,000 kg) post-and-lintel frame formed the Olympic Gateway created by Robert Graham for the 1984 games. The statues, modeled on water polo player Terry Schroeder and long jumper from Guyana, Jennifer Innis, who participated in the games, were noted for their anatomical accuracy.
For many years the Coliseum was capable of seating over 100,000 spectators, and the capacity for the 1984 Olympics configuration was approximately 90,500. The large seating capacity made the venue problematic for the Raiders, as it meant that the vast majority of their home games could not be shown locally due to NFL "blackout" rules (league rules do not allow home games to be televised locally unless the game sells out at least 72 hours prior to its scheduled kickoff). Furthermore, the combination of the stadium's large, relatively shallow design, along with the presence of the track between the playing field and the stands, meant that some of the original end zone seats were essentially away from the field by the equivalent length of another football field. To address these and other problems, the Coliseum underwent a $15 million renovation before the 1993 football season which included the following: 
- The field was lowered by 11 feet and fourteen new rows of seats replaced the running track, bringing the first row of seats closer to the playing field (a maximum distance of 54 feet at the eastern 30 yard-line).
- A portable seating section was built between the eastern endline and the peristyle bleachers (the stands are removed for concerts and similar events).
- A modernization of the locker rooms and public restrooms.
- The bleachers were replaced with individual seating. 
Additionally, for Raiders home games, tarpaulins were placed over seldom-sold sections, reducing seating capacity to approximately 65,000. The changes were anticipated to be the first of a multi-stage renovation designed by HNTB that would have turned the Coliseum into a split-bowl stadium with two levels of mezzanine suites (the peristyle end would have been left as is). After the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, however, $93 million were required from government agencies (including FEMA) to repair earthquake damage, and the renovations demanded by the Raiders were put on hold indefinitely. The Raiders then redirected their efforts toward a proposed stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood before electing to move back to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum prior to the 1995 season. The last element of the Northridge Earthquake repairs was the replacement of the condemned press box with a new press box in 1995.
The Coliseum and the NFL today[edit | edit source]
There is great debate about the Coliseum's potential as a modern NFL stadium. Although the Coliseum is an important historical sports venue, it is regarded by some as no longer adequate to be the home of a major professional sports organization. Since it was designed and built long before the age of club seats, luxury boxes, and many of the other money-generating amenities that modern football stadiums possess, any professional team moving to the Coliseum will likely have to do extensive renovations. Los Angeles County voters are generally uninterested in appropriating tax revenues toward a new stadium, which would put the costs of renovation on any future tenant. Another factor is its location at the edge of South Los Angeles, which is perceived by many potential fans as a somewhat unsafe part of the city, although the area is considerably safer today than it was when the stadium housed two NFL teams. Because of the difficulties that the NFL has had with trying to finance a renovated Coliseum, Rose Bowl or brand new stadium, it has been absent from the second-largest media market in the United States, remarkably, for over a decade. (The NFL was to award a franchise to Los Angeles in 2002, but debate over a stadium, coupled with Houston's aggressiveness, led the NFL to award the franchise to Houston instead.)
On November 10, 2005 then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that the NFL and city officials have reached a preliminary agreement on bringing an NFL team back to the Coliseum. However, no details have been decided.
An article in the Wednesday, May 24, 2006 issue of the Los Angeles Times made light of a proposition to spend tens of millions of dollars of city funds to heavily renovate the stadium, and indicated that the city may make more than $100 million dollars in added funds available in the future toward further renovation. City leaders who support the spending despite significant disapproval from the local population cite that the renovations are necessary to help attract a new NFL team to the city, and that the tax revenue generated by the presence of a new franchise team would eventually pay back the investment many times over. Supporters further claim that the addition of a new NFL team will increase employment in the area adjacent to the stadium, a major concern because the area's population is largely of low and middle income, that these people will themselves help repay the expenditure by paying income taxes, that the presence of a new team will stimulate the local economy by making the area more attractive to new businesses (which themselves could theoretically employ hundreds of tax payers) and that the overall impact on the area will help to raise the area's real estate values.
Attendance records[edit | edit source]
Football (college)[edit | edit source]
Records differ between the 2006 USC football media guide and 2006 UCLA football media guide. (This may be due to only keeping records for "home" games until the 1950s.) The USC Media guide lists the top five record crowds as:
- 1. 104,953 — 1947 vs. Notre Dame (Highest attendance for a football game in the Coliseum)
- 2. 103,303 — 1939 vs. UCLA
- 3. 103,000 — 1945 vs. UCLA
- 4. 102,548 — 1954 vs. UCLA
- 5. 102,050 — 1947 vs. UCLA
The UCLA Media guide does not list the 1939 game against USC, and only lists attendance for the second game in 1945 for Coliseum attendance records. These are the top three listed UCLA record Coliseum crowds:
- 1. 102,548 — vs. USC 1954
- 2. 102,050 — vs. USC 1947
- 3. 100,333 — vs. USC (2nd game) 1945
Football (NFL)[edit | edit source]
The Los Angeles Rams played before an NFL record 100,470 on November 2, 1958.
Baseball (MLB)[edit | edit source]
The May 7, 1959 exhibition game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees in honor of legendary catcher Roy Campanella drew 93,103, which is a Major league baseball record.
Popular Culture[edit | edit source]
Due to its location near Hollywood, the Coliseum has been used in hundreds of commercials and movies over the years. In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, the Coliseum stood in for the University of Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium. Recently, a computer-generated version of the Coliseum was used for Budweiser beer TV commercials during the 2006 NFL playoffs. The stadium was shown filled to capacity, with each spectator participating in a classic "hold up the card" cheering routine. The imagery turned out to be a gigantic beer bottle on one sideline, pouring into a gigantic beer mug on the other sideline, whose contents were then shown being drained by an invisible consumer.
See also[edit | edit source]
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