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Official Review by Andrew Kulyk, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
It is called "The Grand Old Lady." Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is one of those very old school venues seared into America's consciousness. It was the home for not one but two Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1984. It is the home base for USC football, with games against crosstown rival UCLA and against Notre Dame, annual must see televised games across the nation. The Los Angeles Dodgers played here for a time and even hosted World Series games here in 1959. The Raiders moved from Oakland to LA, then back to Oakland and while here this was their home venue.
The NFL Los Angeles Rams played here from 1946 to 1979, until moving to Anaheim Stadium and later relocating to St. Louis. Well, the Rams are back and it feels as if they had never left, judging from the crowds, the colors, the pageantry and fan reception and support.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Older stadiums are notorious for serving up just the basic ballpark dreck, mostly because sophisticated and state-of-the-art food preparation areas just aren't available in these structures. But fact of the matter is here in Los Angeles the concession fare is nothing short of amazing in terms of its creativity, variety and something to please everyone's pallet.
Point of sale concession stands are divided into two groupings; Street Concessions and Upper Concessions. The uppers are basically the stands situated in the two dank and narrow concourses which ring the facility, and offer up the most basic fare. Where it's at are the Street Concessions. This cornucopia of stands surrounds the entire exterior of the stadium, all inside the gates, and the entire walking experience feels like a trip through a county fair. There are colorful stands, seating areas, vendors hawking their wares and team merchandise stands throughout.
Here are a few examples, although it's not a bad idea to pick up a printed concession guide, easily available from any of the many greeters who are easily spotted once past the ticket scanners. Coach's Corner offers ultimate nachos ($9.75) and beef brisket ($11) among its bbq fare. Stadium Fare has bratwurst ($8), All American has hot dogs ($6) and chicken sandwiches ($8).
Look beyond the boiler plate stuff and grab some of the local favorites.. Randy's Donuts is a local chain famous for its signature giant rooftop donut on the top of its stores. Here you can buy a bag of mini donuts ($8) or a 4-pack (also $8). Pancho Tamales and the Mexican Grill offers tamales ($9) and tacos ($7). USC Smokehouse has brisket ($11) and Italian sausage ($9). The array of craft beers here is stupendous with just about every local microbrewer represented. Prices for craft offerings start at $15. Regular beers such as Coors start at $10. A souvenir soda pop will cost $8 and Pepsi products are sold here.
What the building lacks is a vibe and an energy, which dissipates due to its vast size. With a recent renovation the field was lowered some 20 feet to eliminate the running track and bring the fans closer to the action, and that's a good thing. But the massive oval playing surface is way to large for a conventional football field, which is placed closer to the west end zone and far away from the east end zone and its signature colonnades. So that means that most of those end zone seats are tarped over, save for a couple of temporary premium seating areas crafted out of wooden platforms and covered with canvas canopies. Those seats are far away from the action. Even with a full house, a capacity of 80,000 for Rams football, the energy gets lost.
A great football tradition which the Rams have started is the lighting of the cauldron. The Olympic cauldron stands high above the east end zone, and to start off the game, a local luminary is presented on the HD board and is given the honor of lighting the fire. On our visit it was retired Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda doing the honors. The flame is lit, the game is underway, a uniquely Rams tradition and a great one at that.
Much has been made about the scary, scary neighborhood surrounding the Los Angeles Coliseum and neighboring Exposition Park, much of it cemented in people's minds during the area's race riots in the 90s.
Throw out those notions. The district is a happening place. On the park grounds, museums and entertainment venues, including an IMAX theatre, have opened up in recent years. The old and shabby LA Sports Arena has been demolished, and in its place is going to be Bank of California Stadium, home to an MLS expansion team. Trendy mid rise condos and lofts with ground floor retail are springing up everywhere surrounding the property. And of course just to the north is the sprawling USC college campus.
Check out the plethora of food and restaurant hangouts along South Figueroa; Chipotle, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Quiznos and Cold Stone Creamery are a few of the recognizable chains dotting the street. Inside the California Science Center, which is directly outside the stadium, one can find a massive food court and that is open on game days and is a popular gathering spot. If you're into the local fare, La Taquiza and Chano's are favorites amongst the folks living here, with delicious Mexican fare. There is a bit of a tailgate scene, mostly on the stadium lots just west of the facility, but a far cry from the more abundant tailgates one would find in cities such as Oakland, Kansas City, Buffalo or Green Bay.
During the two decade drought where America's second largest city had no NFL football, much was made of the idea that fans here didn't care about the product, that this was now a college town with major football programs at USC and UCLA, and that the community wouldn't support the NFL, having seen their team leave in 1995. To top things off, LA fans had to endure watching the St. Louis Rams winning a Super Bowl and seeing then owner Georgia Frontiere slobbering all over the TV microphone about how she did the right thing relocating the Rams to St. Louis. Ouch.
Fans here are back in droves. In the team's initial season at the Coliseum, they have enjoyed full houses for most of their home dates, even a sellout on their preseason return to the area. How this will translate moving forward into a new stadium, and the possible arrival of a second team to the region (more on that in a bit), has yet to play itself out long term.
Nonetheless, the return of the Rams, who have suffered through a very mediocre season and a sacking of their head coach, has been well received. Team merchandise sales are robust, flags and colors are everywhere and the presence of the NFL is well known and visible, not an easy feat in a city this large, diverse and so chock full of entertainment options.
The choking traffic in Los Angeles and the shortage of adequate parking makes access to the Coliseum a challenge, and patrons are advised to have a plan, a strategy and a road map prior to venturing out.
There is no parking on the Exposition Park grounds itself, save some permit lots reserved for premium ticket holders and staff. That leaves general parking options amongst private lots east, south and west of the stadium grounds. Be forewarned, that those lots are very pricey, some charging as much as $100. Yes that's right $100, to PARK! There are some lots and ramps where one can get away with a $50 fee but $70-$80 is the norm. Supply and demand.
The smart fan will park anywhere along the city's large and expanding Metrorail network. Upon arrival, present your game ticket and they will give you a free ticket for round trip passage to the stadium and back. Exit at the Expo Park on the Metro's Expo Line and it's a five minute walk to the stadium. Following the game the queue is a long one to get back on the train but they run often and the line moves rather quickly.
Ticket prices run from $70 for those hideous seats in the corners next to the colonnades in the far away end zone. At the opposite end zone up high you'll shell out $115. The prices go up from there to a top cost of $275 for lower level 50 yard line seats. These are pricey even by NFL standards, and while the seating bowl boasts a large HD scoreboard in one end zone to accompany the two 80s era vintage matrix boards in the other end zone, there is very little about fan amenities in the building, and all seats are exposed to the weather and elements, although excessive sun exposure would typically be more of a problem than precipitation.
While the concessions are wonderful, they are on the pricey side. Add the expensive cost for parking and this can be one expensive day long experience. About the best bargain is the free ride on the rails, and plenty of cheaply priced casual eateries close to the venue.
-One star goes to the ceremonial lighting of the cauldron, really the best part of the game day presentation.
-One star goes for the wonderful statues, bronze plaques, artifacts and memorabilia which is amply displayed amongst the colonnades in the east end zone. Take the time to explore, and see the history of this spectacular venue come alive. Many great moments in our sports consciousness happened right here. It is all worth checking out.
-One star to the evolving and gentrifying neighborhood here in South Central LA. While there are still some sketchy areas and challenges for access, it is largely a safe and colorfully diverse neighborhood. On non game days the plethora of museums would definitely be worth checking out.
The Rams will play here for two more seasons, before moving to the ridiculously opulent City of Champions Stadium and adjacent entertainment district in Inglewood, set to open for the 2019 season. The estimate cost for that new stadium is $2.66-billion, no that is not a typo.
A couple of other interesting dynamics - the San Diego Chargers might be relocating to Los Angeles as early as next season, as the new stadium in Inglewood is being planned for not one but two NFL teams. If that move happens, the Los Angeles Chargers (from whence they came, having played one season here in 1960) would most likely share the Coliseum with the Rams for two seasons, or alternatively, might make their temporary home at UCLA's Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Lastly, the Coliseum will be seeing its own next phase of renovations, primarily to serve its major tenant the college football USC Trojans. A $270-million upgrade will mean all new seats, aisles and a sound system, construction of a large structure on the south side of the stadium for box seating, premium lounges and a new press box, upgraded concourses, lighting, plumbing and electrical systems, and all designed with fan comfort in mind. Much of the work will take place during the 2018 calendar year and not disrupt the presentation of home games at the facility.
What this all means is that Los Angeles, with its new stadium, potentially two NFL teams, a remodeled coliseum and a new MLS venue will make this city a desirable destination for serious sports travel enthusiasts for years to come.
Member Review by paul on Oct 05, 2016
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