Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Paul Westphal has said that when he was recruited to play at USC back in the late-60's, Bob Boyd showed him the blueprints for a "new campus arena" that would soon be home to the Trojans. Thirty-five years later, SC continues to play its home games at the Sports Arena, which is, truth be told, a nice, comfortable arena, with pleasant sightlines, but is predictably empty during the team's games. In spite of their recent success under Henry Bibby, challenging UCLA for the time in almost a half-century for citywide dominance, USC's attendance was annually the worst in the conference, and one of the worst totals anywhere among big-time college basketball programs.

Finally, though, a private donor has stepped in to contribute $35 million to build the long-dreamt-of arena, and the students and alums will finally be able to see the school play its home games on campus, rather than in an ancient arena situated in the parking lot of the Coliseum, in an area thought, rightly or wrongly, to be a bad part of town. The plan is to begin construction next year, with an opening scheduled for the 2006-7 basketball season.

I would assume that once the new arena opens, the L.A. Sports Arena will no longer have a reason to be. The site of the 1960 Democratic Convention, where JFK withstood the challenge of LBJ (as well as a thrilling demonstration on the floor on behalf of Adlai Stevenson), has no other tenants, and can't really compete with Staples and the Forum for rock concerts. However, it should be seen as an opportunity for the Coliseum Commission, never known for its foresight, to removate the stadium that still dominates the area. Tearing down the Sports Arena will provide for thousands of parking spaces, as well as alleviating worries local fans have had about the neighborhood. All in all, a good day for local sports fans.


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