LA's Memorial Coliseum Will Keep Its Name Under A New Deal Between USC And United Airlines
After protests from local veterans groups and pushback from the commission overseeing the stadium, United Airlines and the University of Southern California have agreed to a compromise to preserve the name of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Starting in August, the venue will be known as "United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum." The deal was reached after a month of closed-door mediation including the school, United, and elected leaders.
The airline and university also plan to build a new memorial to veterans at the Coliseum, and provide more support to veterans who attend USC, according to a statement announcing the deal.
It's a win for veteran advocates who said changing the venue's name would dishonor its history as a war memorial.
The arena was built with public funds and first opened in 1923, dedicated to World War I service members. It's been the sight of two Olympic Games, two Super Bowls, and countless Los Angeles sporting events. USC Trojan football calls it home, along with the Rams NFL team while they wait for a permanent stadium under construction in Inglewood. It will again host the Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2028.
The Coliseum is jointly owned by the city of Los Angeles, L.A. County and the state of California. A public commission oversees it, including L.A. County Supervisors Janice Hahn and Mark Ridley-Thomas and L.A. City Councilman Curren Price.
Despite the venue's storied history, it had fallen on hard times -- in recent years it was showing significant wear and tear, and the commission was accused of mismanagement.
In 2013, USC signed a 98-year lease to take control of the Coliseum and began pouring money into renovations. The school says it has spent over $315 million on upgrades, and construction is over half done -- including a new tower with press facilities and luxury suites.
United reportedly ponied up $69 million for the right to rename the venue "United Airlines Memorial Coliseum" starting this summer. When the deal was announced in January 2018, it initially garnered little pushback from the community.
USC declined to release the value of the new field naming deal.
The school included a statement from interim President Wanda Austin in its announcement of the compromise:
"USC is honored to be the caretaker of this Los Angeles treasure and, together with United, we are ensuring the Coliseum's future as a world-class venue. The naming of the field is a significant step in USC's efforts to usher in a modern era for this historic landmark and preserve its legacy. Through this process, USC was guided by doing the right thing for the community as we continue to honor our veterans. We look forward to the opening of United Airlines Field within the newly renovated Coliseum this summer."
Statement from United Airlines spokesperson Janet Lamkin:
"United has a long history in Los Angeles, serving the city for more than 80 years. With so many employees, many of whom are proud veterans themselves, and customers that travel to or call the area home, this sponsorship is a meaningful way to underscore our commitment to California. We always want to do what is best for the communities in which we operate -- and in this case, reaching an agreement which upholds the name of such a respected venue while modernizing it for the benefit of future generations was the right thing to do."
Supervisor Hahn, president of the Coliseum Commission, celebrated the agreement on Twitter.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's name is here to stay! @USC & @United have reached a new agreement to call it "United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum."— Janice Hahn (@SupJaniceHahn) June 7, 2019
Thank you to USC and United for respecting the history of this war memorial. pic.twitter.com/N6dSnKdNcK
Hahn helped collect signatures for a petition to preserve the name and argued for its historic significance in this L.A. Times op-ed.
This story will be updated.