USC Could Make Millions From the NFL

The L.A. ColiseumEXPAND
The L.A. Coliseum
InSapphoWeTrust / via Flickr

At long last, Stan Kroenke has a green light to build a new football stadium in Inglewood. But it's not scheduled to open until 2019. That means the Rams will need a temporary home for at least three seasons. The Chargers may also move north from San Diego, and they'd also need a place to play until the Inglewood stadium is ready.

For now, the best bet is that both teams would end up at the Coliseum in Exposition Park. That means USC, which took control of the Coliseum three years ago, could wind up with a multimillion-dollar windfall.

"I think we’re in a strong negotiating position because it’s such a great stadium to play in," said Dan Stimmler, the USC official who runs the Coliseum. "It is known and built for football, and it hosts football very, very well. That does give us a very strong competitive advantage."

Looking elsewhere around Southern California, there simply don't seem to be many other options. There is one major obstacle at the Coliseum. If it were to take two NFL teams, it would need to amend its lease with the state and the Coliseum Commission. The California Science Center might well raise concerns about crowded parking lots on fall weekends.

With two NFL teams, USC might also have to replace its grass field with artificial turf, Stimmler said. Turf would be able to withstand the wear and tear of three football teams much better than grass, he said.

"It definitely adds more operational challenges to figure out," Stimmler said. "We’re very confident we could make it work, but there’s a lot of work that would need to be done."

Those issues seem manageable compared with the concerns at other locations. The Rose Bowl would be the most obvious alternative, but the city of Pasadena — which operates the stadium — seems totally uninterested. Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium in Anaheim are ill suited to football, as is the StubHub Center, the soccer stadium in Carson that seats 27,000.

Stimmler said that since the Rams announcement on Jan. 12, he's had several conversations with the Rams. Though the Coliseum seems to be the only game in town, Stimmler said USC is seeking only to charge fair market rent.

A few other NFL teams have temporarily relocated to college stadiums. The Minnesota Vikings are currently paying $250,000 per game plus $50,000 in concession revenue — or as much as $3 million a year — to the University of Minnesota while the Vikings' new stadium is under construction. In 2000-01, the Seattle Seahawks paid $3 million a year to the University of Washington under similar circumstances. And in 2002, the Chicago Bears paid $2 million to the University of Illinois for use of its stadium while Soldier Field was renovated.

Any revenues paid to USC would go toward defraying the cost of a $270 million renovation of the Coliseum, Stimmler said. The project is expected to get under way in January 2018, with a hiatus for the fall 2018 football season. A second phase would begin in January 2019.

USC took control of the Coliseum after the Coliseum Commission defaulted on obligations to maintain the facility. The commission, a joint body of the city, county and state, once hoped to bring NFL back to the Coliseum permanently, but was undone by financial difficulties and corruption.

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