Maureen Lenker 0

Reconsider Ill-Conceived LA Coliseum Upgrades

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To Lynn Swann and USC Athletics:

The purpose of this letter is to attempt to add some visibility to an issue that is extremely important to many members of the Trojan family. In the May 11th edition of the State of Troy, you stated, “The messaging that went out last week was really well received . . . At the end of the day, I believe that the Trojan Family will be happy with the changes that we are making and embrace the new seating grid.” We want to make it clear that this is unequivocally false. Among countless Trojans, the messaging has not been well received, but instead met with dismay and frustration.

You also stated a belief that those of us who are upset with the current plans are “fearful of change.” This is offensive and tone deaf. We are not fearful of change; we welcome it. But we expect change for the better, and that’s not what this renovation provides. This renovation provides immense luxuries for a select few who can afford it, while badly damaging the Gameday experience for everyone else. Everyone else now must pay more, for less. We understand that luxury boxes and other such amenities are the reality of the sport in this day and age, and are long overdue for USC. But such things should not come at the expense of everyone else. When 10,000 prime locations seats are replaced with 2,200, the impact is felt all the way around the stadium. 7,800 fans are displaced, and they will choose the next best available seats. This cascades through the whole stadium, resulting in nearly everyone in a worse seat, with many having to pay more to be there. Athletics is clearly aware of this, but there seems to have been no effort to do anything to mitigate it.

USC often speaks of the Trojan Family in idealistic terms. While some of this is obviously a marketing ploy, many of us do believe there is something special about the meaning of the Trojan Family. This renovation damages that belief, because it is a direct affront to some of the most loyal members of the Trojan Family. Many of us have been season ticket holders and held our same seats for decades -- 20, 30, 40 years -- and the money, time, and dedication we have given to the University and our teams is real. Many of us have raised our Trojan Families in those seats. We are being summarily dismissed from seats where we have trained the next generation of Trojans -- we’ve shown them how to Fight On, taught them the words to Tusk, and demonstrated the true nature of a Trojan as we’ve sat there through highs (Pete Carroll) and lows (Hackett and Tolner). To you, this seems to mean nothing. We are being asked to give all of this up for nothing but the improvement of the experience for a select few.

One of the prime attributes of being a Trojan is “Faithful” -- those of us who have embodied that value to its core feel our loyalty is hollow. You are sending the message that the bottom line in the Trojan Family isn’t faithfulness, it’s money. While we understand that USC has risen to prominence through the generosity of donors and an incredible capital campaign, we feel that this renovation is ill-conceived on the backs of loyal fans and alumni. What’s more -- you have said that this is required to cover urgent upgrades for the Coliseum, but you clearly have other sources with income, as the naming deal with United amply demonstrates.

If you wish to renovate and give us a modern stadium, why lay the cost at the feet of season ticket holders, while providing them with nothing in return? Instead, why not start a capital campaign and raise funds in a similar manner to every other endeavor on the USC campus. Why not lower the field, center the field, and bring the seats in closer to create more sideline seats? We fear that the current plans will result in half-empty stadiums with true fans pushed into the rafters or left at home. Corporations will buy up the seat licenses and hand out tickets to those who do not understand or care about the game. The team will play to a crowd of disengaged, uninformed attendees, while those who cheer through thick and thin will be pushed further from the action or out of the stadium altogether.

This renovation clearly does not show loyalty to longtime USC fans. It is also neither courageous nor ambitious. A courageous plan would have fought for a better renovation against the various stockholders who do not have USC’s best interests at heart. An ambitious plan would have shown confidence in the team and the fans to believe that we will again reach the heights necessary to fill a 90,000 seat stadium.

This plan is not reflective of Trojan values, it is a Trojan horse -- a plan you market as a gift and boon to fans, but one that actually contains our undoing as a loyal Trojan nation. Let us be clear -- this messaging is not well received, and it will ultimately do more to harm our fan-base and our team than it will improve matters.

We ask that you recognize the loyalty of fans who have held the same seats for decades and years of support, and adjust the financial requirements and seat count restrictions placed on them. We ask that you heed the multitude of suggestions put forth by true Trojan Fans to modify the renovation plans to create more value for the average fan by creating new, good seats and reducing the absurd profile of the suites within the Coliseum. Give us a modern Coliseum that improves the Game Day experience for all, not just the 2,200 who will be cordoned off into an exclusive tower, away from everyone else.

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