Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

From Academic Kids

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Front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, after its re-opening following earthquake restoration.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a large outdoor sports stadium located in Exposition Park in Los Angeles, California, near the campus of the University of Southern California. It is sometimes nicknamed The Grand Old Lady.

Originally built in 1922, the Coliseum served as the primary track and field venue and site of the opening and closing ceremonies of both the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games. The Olympic torch which burned through the Games remains above the peristyle at one end of the stadium as a reminder of this, as do the Olympic rings symbols over one of the main entrances. A pair of life-sized bronze statues of male and female athletes atop a 20,000 pound (9,000 kg) post-and-lintel frame formed the Olympic Gateway created by Robert Graham for the 1984 games. The statues, modelled on a waterpolo player and a sprinter who participated in the games, were noted for their anatomical accuracy.

The Olympic Torch is lit during football games, and other special occasions. In 2004, the torch was lit non-stop for seven days in tribute to Ronald Reagan, who passed away; and was lit again in April 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II, who held mass at the Coliseum during his visit to Los Angeles in 1987.

Many other events have been held at the Coliseum over the years, and only a few are listed here. For many years, it served as the home football stadium for both the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans, although in 1982 UCLA moved its home games to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The former Cleveland Rams of the National Football League relocated to the Coliseum in 1946, becoming the Los Angeles Rams; but the team later relocated again, first to Anaheim in 1979, then to St. Louis, Missouri in 1995. In 1960 the American Football League's Los Angeles Chargers played at the Coliseum before relocating to San Diego the next year. In 1982 the Rams were temporarily replaced as tenants by the former Oakland Raiders, however this team subsequently returned to Oakland in 1995, leaving the Coliseum without a professional football tenant for the first time since the close of World War II. The most recent pro football tenant has been the short-lived Los Angeles Xtreme, the first and only champion of the XFL. The Coliseum was also the site of the very first NFL-AFL Championship Game in January 1967, an event since given the modest name of the Super Bowl. It also hosted the Super Bowl in 1973.

Other sporting events held at the Coliseum over the years have included Major League Baseball, which was held at the Coliseum when the former Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League relocated to Los Angeles in 1958. The Dodgers played here until Dodger Stadium was completed in time for the 1962 season, despite the fact that the Coliseum's one-tier, oval bowl shape was extremely poorly-suited to baseball. Although ill-suited as a major league baseball field, with its left field line at 251 feet (77 m) and power alley at 320 feet (98 m), it was ideally suited for large paying crowds. Each of the three games of the 1959 World Series drew over 92,000 fans, a record unlikely to be challenged anytime soon.

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Aerial view of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during a USC football game.

The Coliseum for many years was capable of seating over 100,000 spectators, and the capacity for the 1984 Olympics configuration was approximately 88,000. Subsequently, many seats - and the running track - were removed to appease Raiders owner Al Davis, partially in order to make the venue more easily sold out so that his team's game could appear live on L.A. television, which is forbidden by NFL rules unless a game is already sold out at least 72 hours prior to its scheduled kick-off. Some of the removed seats, which were primarily in the end zone, were replaced with new bleachers far closer to the end lines of the playing field. (The combination of the stadium's large, relatively shallow design, along with the presence of the track between the playing field and the stands, meant that some of the former end zone seats were essentially away from the field by the equivalent in length to another football field.) However, with Davis' Raiders now long gone, recently some of the changes that he had demanded were reversed, and the current configuration is somewhat similar to that used for the 1984 Olympics, with a recent USC football game drawing over 90,000, the largest crowd assembled within the Coliseum for several years.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a tremendously historical sports venue and probably should be preserved on that basis alone. However, it is no longer regarded as adequate by modern standards to be the home of a major professional sports organization. It is located in what is perceived by many potential fans, accurately or not, as a more unsafe part of the city. The absence of large numbers of club seats, which in newer venues are usually located in between a lower and an upper deck, and the overall age of the facility and many of its amenities, mean that it is very unlikely that any major professional sports team will consider relocating to the Coliseum again except perhaps on a very temporary basis, and even that seems increasingly unlikely. Given the apparent lack of interest among the voters in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in appropriating any tax revenues toward a new stadium, it seems that the NFL's oft-stated desire to return to the nation's second-largest media market may remain unfulfilled for quite some time, unless arrangements can be made with a suburban jurisdiction; this has been proposed several times, but as of this writing has never come close to fruition.


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