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Friday, December 16, 2011
USC likely to gain control of Coliseum

By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission is expected to agree on a term sheet Wednesday to hand over day-to-day control of the publicly owned stadium to USC, commission president David Israel told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Friday.

The commission will hold a special meeting Dec. 21 to discuss the matter. A vote on the matter after discussions is expected to be unanimous, with the only commissioner on the fence being city councilman Bernard C. Parks.

After a term sheet is agreed to, lawyers will draw up the legally binding lease modification, which the commission will then vote on. USC will likely obtain the master lease for the 88-year-old stadium in late March or early April, giving the university the exclusive right to use, manage and operate the facility.

"Our goal is to have the deal done so they can be handed the keys sometime in April, if not before," Israel said.

USC has wanted to gain control of the Coliseum for years and will finally do so after commission members acknowledged earlier this year they would be unable to keep their promise to USC to make $50 million in improvements to the aging facility.

Four years ago USC offered to pay $100 million to renovate the Coliseum in exchange for the master lease, but the commission rejected it. They believed a naming rights deal for the Coliseum would net them just as much, if not more. The economy, however, crashed soon after and with it went a couple of naming-rights deals the commission was working on.

After gaining control of the Coliseum, USC officials say they will begin plans to return the Coliseum to the condition that made it the home of two Olympic Games and two Super Bowls. It is also being discussed as a temporary facility for an NFL team if the NFL decides to return to Los Angeles.

While USC will gain day-to-day control of the Coliseum next year, the Coliseum Commission, which has been maligned by financial troubles and scandals, will not completely cease to exist.

"It would cease to be the entity that operates the Coliseum but as far as I understand it will not be dissolved," Israel said. "It will exist to make sure USC abides by the terms of the lease and is available to meet monthly to protect the community interests. Some entity has to make sure that USC lives up to the terms and conditions of the lease, which I have no doubt they will but you still need to have an apparatus for the public to be heard."

Arash Markazi is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.