LOS ANGELES -- If you thought there was controversy over former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and intense debate over who should be his permanent successor, you haven’t been paying attention to the passionate reaction by Trojans fans over the university’s recently released renovation renderings for a new-and-improved Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Aside from commenting on interim head coach Clay Helton’s rejuvenation of the Trojans, you can bet before and during this Saturday night's USC homecoming game against Arizona there will be plenty of discussion and debate among alumni and fans regarding the proposed additions and subtractions to the Trojans' storied home field.
Slated to begin renovation after the 2017 season and readied for the opening of the 2019 season, USC’s athletic administration was probably hopeful their long and hard work would bring a majority of smiles, head nods of approval, and high-fives by those who attend Trojans home games.
As ESPN College GameDay host Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!”
“Wow, I don't think I like it,” said longtime USC fan Steve Hayworth, a Trojans legacy, after viewing the various artist renderings. “It’s all about the luxury boxes, once again. It’s more modern, I get it, but I am not for it.”
One reason for Hayworth’s disdain is that a massive new structure -- which will accommodate a new press box, luxury suites, loge boxes and club seating -- extracts the upper half of Coliseum seating from what appears to nearly stretch from goal line to goal line. Many Trojans fans feel the new super structure makes the Coliseum look imbalanced and out of character.
As it pertains to season-ticket holders who currently sit in those targeted sections and apparent future victims of the Trojans' eminent domain, Hayworth asked, “Where are they going to put those displaced people?”
On a practical level, a new Coliseum press box has been long overdue. The current Coliseum press box leaves much to be desired in terms of workability, comfort, sight-line issues, technology, and restroom and culinary facilities.
There are, however, segments of Trojan fans who welcome some of the proposed renovations because they alleviate the eyesore of those corporate, high-rise tents that have resided just below the famed Olympic torch and have blocked the iconic view of the peristyle end of the Coliseum.
“The changes keep the beauty of the peristyle end in place and keeps it visible,” said longtime season-ticket holder John Abdelnour, who notes the enormous super structure is fine with him as long as it returns the peristyle end to its original viewing setting.
For Abdelnour, 66, the renovations are also about fan contentment.
“If they can make it comfortable for fans, like the new seats (wider with more leg room) and handrails, which are important, I also see that as a big addition,” Abdelnour said. “My wife, Jeannie, has had some issues getting up and down the cement stairs, and the handrails are a big addition for us.”
One area of agreement by most fans was in regards to the “Sun Deck” -- those portable bleachers located in the open end of the Coliseum behind the end zone. Below the front of the Sun Deck have been those unattractive and some call “cheesy-looking” ground-level VIP tents, which will be eliminated with the new press box/suites structure.
Many fans were hoping the Sun Deck, which is also home to the USC marching band, would be replaced by permanent seats, connecting both sides of the Coliseum to form an intimate, saucer-style configuration, yet not built too high at its apex to obstruct viewing of the peristyle end.
According to USC officials, the retention of the Sun Deck is for flexibility for other events and the possibility of Los Angeles hosting the 2024 Olympics.
Trepidation for PSLs (personal seat licenses) for a large number of Trojans season-ticket holders quickly resurfaced with the announced reduction of future Coliseum seating from 93,607 to 77,500.
“Overall, it’s a nice look (the Coliseum renderings), and if it’s more comfortable for us, I am all for it,” said Curt Annett, a 30-year member of the Trojans' Cardinal and Gold support group and a season-ticket holder.
“I would only be upset if there is a seat license (PSL) attached to my tickets,” Annett added.
According to USC, two-thirds of the renovated seats will not require a PSL.
So, it figures that those earlier released artist renderings will be a fluid situation right up to the opening day of construction, but what won’t change will be the continuous pros-and-cons scrutiny of the project by Trojans fans as it relates to their beloved Coliseum.