REPORTING FROM LOS ANGELES — A museum located near the L.A. Sports Memorial Coliseum has delayed a planned stadium handover to the University of Southern California over parking concerns.
This morning, the board of the California Science Center delayed a key vote to turn over parking to the university for games and concerts. The university and the commission have been in talks to finalize a new lease agreement for USC that would give the school more control of daily operations at the stadium.
“There is a misconception that USC wants to take control of the parking lots but that’s simply not the case. We just want the right to use them for 25 events a year,” said USC VP Carl Guido Marziali.
At issue is what happens to the parking lots of the state-owned museum during USC home games and other events. In its lease negotiations with the state, university officials wanted a permit for most of the parking surrounding the Coliseum and Exposition Park which houses the Science Center and the California African America Museum. The deal would save about 975 parking spots for both museums on event days.
The state of California owns the parking spaces and leases them to both the university and the museums, and the plan doesn’t allow the state to rent parking to USC for a discounted price — last year, the school was charged $25 a space and $50 for VIP spaces inside a garage, which it can then resell to fans. Profits made from parking are to be used to improve the coliseum and parking lots.
“In the past, there was no cap on events,” which meant neither museum had a guaranteed allotment of parking,” explained Board President Dan Knabe. “This plan caps that to 25 days a year and only gives priority to football games. All other event days are first-come, first-serve” between the school and the museum, he said.
Wednesday’s decision by the California Science Center to delay approval of the parking plan until their June 25th meeting came amid public outcry that the deal didn’t allow for enough museum parking during USC events. It also delayed a board effort to turn the coliseum over to the USC by July 1.
“We will face some significant issues since the budget situation in the coming year had been predicated on a July 1 transfer date,” said John Sandbrook, whose contract as Chief Administration Officer at the Coliseum was also delayed by the Science Center’s decision. The commission is said to be in financial straits — it operated at a $550,000 deficit in May.
“We had just issued a personnel action notice involving the employment of our staff, as well as communications vendors and interested parties. This delay complicates that process,” he said.
Many of the employees were told they would either be terminated on June 30, the last day before USC takes over the facility, or offered six months of guaranteed employment during the transition.
If the California Science Center approves the parking arrangement, the lease will then be sent back to the board and eventually on to legislative groups representing Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and California, which co-own the coliseum. All three are expected to approve the plan.
The lease agreement caps off the end of a long process to bring the coliseum under university control after former managers at the facility were criminally charged with corruption for their role in an alleged kickback scene with Electronic Dance Music promoters. In January, the Commission missed a $500,000-lease payment owed to the state for rent. The stadium has lost about $10.6 million in the past three years.
USC’s revised lease to control the coliseum for 99 years, gives the school expansive powers including the right to redevelop the aging L.A. Sports Arena. Groups like California’s Congressional Black Caucus have opposed the plan, arguing that a private institution like USC shouldn’t have so much control over a state-owned property.
Interviewed for this article: Carl Guido Marziali, (213) 740-4751; Dan Knabe & John Sandbrook, (213) 741-1111