USC in talks to buy Coliseum property

Updated: December 8, 2010, 2:19 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

USC is in talks with California state officials to buy the land where the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Los Angeles Sports Arena are situated, as well as adjacent parking lots in Exposition Park.

The deal would not, however, supercede the Coliseum Commission's lease of the Coliseum, which remains in effect until 2055.

"The basic elements of the sale have been agreed upon," said Kristina Raspe, the school's associate senior vice president of real estate and asset management. "But the closing of transaction will take many months and [is] subject to approval of the new administration.

"Essentially the Coliseum Commission will still be in place. Their lease with the state doesn't go away. They'll just be paying us rent as the ground landlord, and we'll be paying them rent as a tenant for six football dates a year until the end of the lease agreement [in 2055]."

Raspe said the school has discussed such a deal off and on for many years, but this round of talks began just a couple of weeks ago when state officials approached the school.

For USC it addresses two major issues: the school's daytime parking situation and its long-term relationship with the Coliseum, which had been acrimonious a few years ago, but changed for the better when the Coliseum Commission gave the school first right of refusal on an NFL team.

"Our working relationship with the commission has been outstanding the last few years," Raspe said.

For California, the deal would generate money that could immediately help with the state's budget crisis, and add a long-term partner in USC that would help both sites attract events in the future.

In buying the adjacent parking lots, the school would also have the authority to pre-sell parking at Coliseum and Sports Arena events, something the state currently is unable to do, which has hurt the marketability of both venues.

"I think the budget crisis is probably one of the reasons why the state approached us," she said. "But the university has also proven itself to be a good neighbor. And I'm sure it was a lot easier to contemplate a relationship with us, than say a private developer."

Raspe added that the school was supportive of the Coliseum Commission's plans to redevelop the Sports Arena. Last month the Commission submitted a draft of an environmental impact report.

According to that report, the Commission "is considering two different and mutually exclusive future uses for the Project Site: a civic multiple use space, or a new professional 22,000 seat outdoor soccer stadium."

The state officials who administer the lands have called a special meeting for December 21 approve the sale. After that it must be approved by the administration of new Governor Jerry Brown, like sometime early next year.

The Coliseum, which hosted the Olympic Games in 1932 and 1984, is a national historic landmark as well as USC's home field. The Sports Arena most recently was home to the Los Angeles Clippers, before they moved to the Staples Center with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The deal would not include the the museums on the property.

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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