by Garry Paskwietz
The USC athletic department has updated their Coliseum renovation website with information on planned enhancements, a preview center and more details on the mammoth tower structure that is being proposed on the south side of the stadium.
It is this proposed tower that is at the center of attention for so many fans right now, as it should be. While there is a great deal of attention being paid in the restoration to maintaining the integrity of other parts of the Coliseum (including a return of the Peristyle to the original design) the current plans for the newly named “Scholarship Club Tower” simply do not fit with the traditional symmetry of the Grey Lady.
When I first heard about the restoration the first two things that came to mind were preserving the Peristyle and the tunnel, and it looks like both will receive proper facelifts, so I’m happy in that regard. There are also a lot of other good things – new seats, hand-rails, and wi-fi – that are going to be welcome and enjoyed. But that excitement is tempered by the tower structure. I imagined suites being added along the rim of the stadium on the south side as an extension of the press box, or an opposite north side with a similar structure to the current press box. I didn’t imagine something that extended halfway into the stands, and impacts the stadium in so many ways.
Don’t get me wrong, we recognize that the suites are a necessary component of any future plans because they help cover the costs of the overall renovation. It’s just hard to imagine that there isn’t a way to do it without jutting out into the stands so much and altering the classic oval look that helps make the Coliseum such an instantly recognizable structure. You don’t get a chance to do something like this every day – to make major upgrades at a place like the Coliseum – so that makes it that much more important to get it right.
First of all, a lot of seats are going to be displaced that are in a prime location and belong largely to donors, former student-athletes and those who have connections to get into that location in the first place. Assuming not all of them are going to now be part of the Scholarship Club tower seating, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where their new seat locations will be better than their current ones. It will be interesting to see how the athletic department handles that relocation process.
The stadium capacity will also be reduced, with many of those seats being lost due to the presence of the tower. The perception of many fans is that the tower represents a playground for a select group of donors, and one of the reasons the overall costs of the restoration are so high is because of the construction of the tower. It’s far and away the biggest addition in the plan.
For such a long time the Coliseum didn’t need the bells and whistles that so many other stadiums relied upon for atmosphere. Instead, the Coliseum has relied on the buzz being provided by the action on the field, and when the Trojans have the place rocking it is as good as it gets in college football.
Hopefully the resulting tower structure, whatever form it may take, doesn’t alter the beloved Coliseum as much as the current plans would seem to indicate.