USC Coliseum Naming Rights

I was quietly planning a hiatus from blogging, since I will be a full-time grad student in addition to being a full-time employee soon. But that was before reading the news today. I’ve already went to great lengths to gripe about the Coliseum renovation, so why stop now?

So if you haven’t heard the news, The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum got a naming rights deal for $70 million over 15 years. From United. Yes, that United.

It’s one thing to have a naming rights deal. I don’t think it works for certain stadiums. Certainly not ones with so much history. What could you add to “Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum” that wouldn’t make it significantly worse? I’ll wait to see how that one shakes out. Maybe they’ll find a way to do it tastefully.

But United Airlines? The same United that had a huge customer service and PR blunder about a month ago? I don’t know if that’s the best thing to associate with at the moment. Don’t tell me they couldn’t and wouldn’t be picky as long as somebody was paying. If it was $100 million over 15 years from a company like…Trojan Condoms, do you think USC would’ve taken it? Someone probably would’ve said, “hey, maybe all the jokes and negative publicity connected to that wouldn’t be worth the money.” But the next best thing, United Airlines, that’s okay.

So let the jokes begin.

They might as well let the Raiders lease a spot again. That way, when you get beat up by a fan, security can tell you that it was sponsored by United.

Great timing on the part of USC. When you’re about to take out 16,000 seats, displacing a bunch of upset fans, who else would you go to for a sponsorship? Because nobody displaces upset customers like United.

This one is a personal anecdote. The one time I went to the Coliseum for an NFL game, I saw quite a few interesting things. All of it seems awfully relevant now. It was an LA Rams preseason game and I went just for the hell of it. I entered around kick off and saw a fight in the stands that ended in security escorting them out. Then a fight broke out on the field, leading to a few ejections. As it neared halftime, a group came in, claiming we were in their seats. We all produced our tickets and realized that a seller on StubHub managed to sell the same seats twice. For some reason, the ticket scanners at the gate still let us all in. Overbooking seems to be the norm!

You know what, I’m not sure why I am criticizing this naming rights deal anymore. It’s a better match than most Tinder dates.

CommBro Breaker

Whooooa wait. I got a naming rights deal offer for $150 dollars over 8 years!! That’s $18.75 a year. Do you know how many chicken nuggets I can get with that?! Like 120 at Burger King or something.

As a result, the name of my blog will be changing to City of Angles presented by The Onion.

Our new logo. Still better than the Chargers

See you at the Coliseum for years to come!

Coliseum Cropped

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has accrued a plethora of historic tales. Being eight years (or 5 coaches, if you prefer that unit of measure) short of hitting its centennial anniversary, you would probably expect as much. In the end, that very historic value could very well be a ridiculously oversized speed bump in the renovation plan. But that may only be part of the problem. If you haven’t been to the new website, go take a look at it now.

Fancy renderings and flowery language obscure some glaring issues with the proposal. What they also fail to mention is that the estimated $270 million project will reduce the seating down to 77,500—a reduction of 16,107 seats.

They'll never know the difference!

They’ll never notice the difference!

 

The seating reduction alone garners significant attention. Currently, the Coliseum seats 93,607, making it not only one of the largest college football stadiums, but one of the largest football stadiums in the nation. The proposed plan would drop the Coliseum from #9 in the US to #25. Do they want it to mirror our university’s US News ranking or something? If that’s what they’re shooting for, they still gotta move up two spots to #23. Even if you take out all the NFL stadiums, it still comes up to a paltry #21. This would also concede the disctintion of the largest stadium in the Pac-12 to UCLA. See for yourself in the chart below:

US Football Stadiums College Football Stadiums
1 Michigan    107,601 1 Michigan    107,601
2 Penn State    106,572 2 Penn State    106,572
3 Ohio State    105,994 3 Ohio State    105,994
4 Texas A&M    102,733 4 Texas A&M    102,733
5 Tennessee    102,455 5 Tennessee    102,455
6 LSU    102,321 6 LSU    102,321
7 Alabama    101,821 7 Alabama    101,821
8 Texas    100,119 8 Texas    100,119
9 USC (Current)      93,607   9 USC (Current)      93,607
10(9) Georgia      92,746 10 (9) Georgia      92,746
11(10) Rose Bowl      92,542 11 (10) Rose Bowl      92,542
18(17) Oklahoma      82,112 17 (16) Oklahoma      82,112
20(19) Notre Dame      80,795 19 (18) Notre Dame      80,795
25(24) Redskins (NFL)      79,000 21 (20) South Carolina      80,250
(25) USC (Proposed)      77,500 (21) USC (Proposed)      77,500
26 Jaguars (NFL)      76,867 22 Michigan State      75,005

*Red denotes adjustment for post renovation.

Every single blue blood program boasts a seating capacity of more than 80,000: Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. Even fringe ones like Tennessee, Penn State, and Nebraska. At least be bigger than South Carolina! We already have to put up with their, “We’re the real USC” crap now. Imagine if their stadium was bigger than ours too! If that’s an impossible task, can we at least get 80,000?

Is this sending a message to the world? Has the university or athletic department decided, like Stanford, to simply drop football’s priority level a few notches? Stanford dropped the number of seats in their stadium by over 30,000 during their renovation about a decade ago. It would be sad to see a USC’s football program, so rich with tradition and history, relegated to such a position.

The home attendance numbers have certainly dipped after Pete Carroll left for the NFL (refer to chart below), but how by how much?

Home Attendance Numbers
2008-Present Post Carroll 5 Year
Total 3,879,420 2,849,868 2,370,424
Average (rounded) 79,172 77,023 76,465
# of times below 77.5k 20 19 17
Total # of games 49 36 30

A quick glance at these numbers might have you thinking that the 77,500 might not be too bad of a number. Ever since Pete Carroll left, average attendance has been under that amount. Hell, a little more than half the games would not be a sellout even with the smaller stadium size. That type of thinking is flawed though. Averages don’t really work well in this situation.

About half of the games are above the 77,500 limit, including six sellouts. That means there would’ve been boatloads of money left on the table for those games. I hate math, so we’ll do an extremely conservative estimate. We’ll set the price of tickets to be $75 each (face value for a nosebleed seat in a rivalry game). So if a rivalry game swould’ve sold out, that’s $75 x 16,107 seats for a total of $1,208,025. That’s $1.2 million in revenue you would’ve missed out on for a single sellout rivalry game. Keep in mind that a significant number of the seats they’re taking out aren’t nosebleeds, they’re the donor seats that were under the press box. Will the new personal seat licenses and luxury suites make up for that?

Also note that this would mean packing out some terrible seats in section 27-29, 33, and 1. They are behind the band seating and pretty far from the field.

Tack on that these are some of the most tumultous times in USC Football history. The first two midseason head coach terminations in USC’s 127 year history just happened within the past two years. Unprecedented and unjust sanctions were handed down about five years ago. With more stability, and a winning team, the attendance would easily average above 77,500 again. As long as we don’t get a repeat of the 1990s, all should be well before long.

Take a gander all the way back up at the stadium size chart. USC’s company in the US Football Stadiums side? The Washington Redskins and the Jacksonville Jaguars. It appears USC is positioning the Coliseum to be a venue for an NFL that comes to Los Angeles. That’s great and all, but are we really mortgaging the future for a team that is going to be here for 3-5 years at most? They’ll bring in some money, but they’re gone as soon as they get their new stadium.

All in all, these plans seem a tad short-sighted from my perspective.

CommBro Breaker

Since the Coliseum has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, only so many alterations can be made to the structure. Perhaps that has something to do with these limited plans? I know they have to make ADA compliant stairs, with railings and such. And some of the aisles definitely need widening. Furthermore, the Coliseum Commission left the place in a mess and its tough to bring together the money to get such a large project done. I understand all that, but I was still expecting something less…underwhelming.

At best, we can hope that this is just a short term plan to get some money from NFL tenancy, which they can use to do some more drastic overhauls down the line. Maybe it will draw the 2024 Olympics, incentivizing the government to sink some money into it. All I’m saying is maybe there is something I’m not seeing here. If you got inside information that makes me look like an idiot for speculating, please contact me. I’m a reasonable person (most of the time). I will gladly rescind this post and replace it with a giant “I’m wrong.” Otherwise, I don’t want the Coliseum shrunk down to 1930s size.