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Sports Arena On its Way Out, But Does LA Need Another MLS Stadium?

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Conceptual renderings of the multi-use plan (left) and the MLS stadium (right)
In 1959, Wilt Chamberlain played his first professional basketball game there. In 1960, the Democratic National Convention nominated John F. Kennedy for president there. And now it's mostly home to the occasional controversial rave. It's the Welton Becket-designed Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, and its operators, the LA Coliseum Commission, want to demolish it. The Commission released a draft environmental impact report earlier this month that considers two potential replacement projects--a multi-use outdoor amphitheater and a 22,000 seat MLS stadium. According to the report, the Arena would need major repairs to stick around as is, and is already operating at losses between $750,000 and $900,000 a year. It gets by with a little help from its successful brother, the LA Memorial Coliseum.

Under the multi-use plan, the arena would be demolished and a bowl-shaped, open-air amphitheater would be built into the existing depression. An 800 square foot concrete stage at the bottom of the theater would be semi-surrounded by tiered, grass-covered seating. The rest of the 15 acre site would be flat, grass-covered open space. The DEIR proposes gatherings including farmers' markets, community events, and concerts with capacity up to 90,000 people. (Capacity for the Arena and the Coliseum combined would stay about the same as it is now).

Under the other plan, an MLS stadium would be built approximately in the arena's existing depression (it would have a slightly different shape). Not particularly thrillingly, the DEIR says that "architecturally, the stadium would resemble other comparable venues in the nation, such as the Home Depot Center in the City of Carson." A VIP parking lot would be retained, and the rest of the site would get some landscaped plazas and roadways. The Commission would like to host MLS and USC games (according to Neon Tommy, USC has a women's team at the Varsity level), as well as concerts and other events. The report says the stadium "is expected to be a high-profile attraction."

While the DEIR acknowledges that the Arena is probably eligible for the California Register of Historic Places, it says a historic retention alternative considered in the report isn't financially feasible. As Neon Tommy points out, "It's unclear how the demolition and redevelopment would be funded."
· L.A. Sports Arena Releases Draft Environmental Impact Report [Neon Tommy]
· Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena [Official Site]