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Thursday, January 12, 2012
USC closer to control of Coliseum

By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- USC has taken another step in taking over day-to-day control of the publicly owned Coliseum.

The university and the Coliseum Commission released a non-binding document that establishes the terms for such a lease, but there will be many more steps over the next two months before an agreement is officially reached.

ESPNLosAngeles.com reported last month that after lawyers drew up the modified lease in January, an agreement would be reached in late March or early April, giving USC the exclusive right to use, manage and operate the 88-year-old stadium.

"Our goal is to have the deal done so they can be handed the keys sometime in April, if not before," Coliseum Commission president David Israel told ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The current terms call for USC to spend more than $50 million to renovate the stadium but it is likely USC will double that amount.

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.

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

Multiple Coliseum commissioners labeled the agreement a "done deal" but added that it needed to go through the proper channels because it is a publically owned facility. The term sheet stipulates that USC agree to make the Coliseum available for community events at least eight days a year, which would double the number of times it is used for such events currently.

While USC will gain day-to-day control of the Coliseum sometime in March or April, the Coliseum Commission, which has been maligned by financial troubles and scandals, will not be eliminated. In fact, the current term sheet calls for the commission to receive 90 free tickets to USC games and access to a "hospitality area" at the stadium.

"[The Coliseum Commission] 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 reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.