A few weeks ago we started taking a little time to discuss our experiences in some other college football stadiums. I kicked it off with a look at Lane Stadium and Meager Reader followed that up with a look at the Big House. It is time to get back on it.
For this installment we are going to discuss the home stadium of the USC Trojans. The USC campus is adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Trojans began playing their home games there shortly after it opened in 1923. That was only the beginning of what would become a rich Coliseum history. Per lacoliseumlive.com.
It is the only facility in the world to play host to two Olympiads (X and XXIII), two Super Bowls (I and VII) and one World Series (1959).
In the summer of 2002 I was a relatively new resident of Southern California and I made it a top priority to acquire a handful of tickets to the Notre Dame vs. USC game at the Coliseum before the season started. Expectations were not high for either team. But by the end of November Ty Willingham was bringing a 10-1 Notre Dame team to Los Angeles to face off with a 10-2 Trojan squad that was just beginning a resurgence under Pete Carroll. Needless to say I was really excited about going to the game.
The Coach flew out for Thanksgiving and on Saturday morning we loaded up a few other friends and headed to the Coliseum to take it all in. I will preface this by saying that I am really glad that I went, but I haven't made it a priority to return since.
Details after the jump.
The Campus: C
The campus is in a rough area to the immediate southwest of downtown Los Angeles. While this makes for a picturesque view of downtown from inside the stadium the view from the outside is less than desirable. The campus is relatively small in size and appeared to be surrounded by a security fence that gave it the appearance of an embassy compound in a 3rd world country.
The stadium is to the immediate south of the campus nestled inside of Exposition Park. Finding a place to park was tough and we ended up parking on the street in a neighborhood just south of the stadium near the intersection of Figueroa and MLK Blvd. We took the scenic route and walked by the campus en-route to the stadium but didn't bother trying to get inside for a closer look. From the outside looking in, the campus seemed relatively small and on top of itself. That probably has more to do with the fact that it is crammed into Los Angeles than anything else. Regardless we quickly doubled back towards Exposition Park which was swarming with fans from both teams that were getting primed for the game.
The Tailgate Scene: C
Once we got into Exposition Park the tailgate scene was pretty decent. There are several museums, the Exposition Park Rose Garden, and several other sports venues like the L.A. Sports Arena. It is actually a pretty big and scenic area and there were random pockets of fans spread out all over the place. The limited parking seemed to hinder what I would consider traditional tailgating quite a bit. Hopefully this is an area that has been improved in more recent years.
The Stadium Itself: B
For all of the history and the location of the Coliseum I wasn't real impressed with the stadium itself once we got inside. At the time the stadium seated 92,488 and has since expanded to 93,607. That sounds really big because it literally is. The stadium is so physically large that it really feels too large to hold a football field. In an attempt to somewhat close the stadium in around the field there are bleachers behind the east endzone and the eastern end of the stadium being closed. That's the end of the stadium that you see on TV with the oversized retired jerseys laying across it.
I alluded to it above but the view from the upper portion of the south side stadium is pretty fantastic. To the west you can catch a glimpse of the sunset on the Pacific and to the northeast you have the downtown Los Angeles skyline. Toss in the history of the place and I give it a solid B.
There was really nothing memorable about the concessions. They did sell beer though.
The Fans: D-
My take on the USC fans is likely heavily influenced by the intensity of the rivalry. I know there are portions of the stadium that are populated by a pretty affluent crowd. We were sitting closer to the top of the stadium with an interesting mix of people. There was a healthy mix of USC and ND fans around us and for the most part they were "normal" passionate fans. But there was an element in the stands up there that I would describe as leftover Raider fans looking for some place to act like idiots on a Saturday night. They were as painful to tolerate as any fans that I have ever been around.
Late in the game when Carson Palmer started shredding the Irish secondary en-route to locking up his Heisman those Raider USC fans got really obnoxious and a handful of fistfights literally broke out around us between some of them and a few Notre Dame fans that just couldn't take it anymore. I've been to a lot of college football games and I can honestly say the Coliseum is the only place that I've ever seen actual fights break out between fans in the crowd. It was ugly.
Crowd Noise: B
The crowd was pretty lively as the game was actually tight for the first half, but I never considered it loud. Perhaps the size of the place contributes to that but I thought the noise level was pretty average.
The Band and the use of piped in music: A
There was no piped in music, just the crowd and the band. For starters the USC Band made a pretty awesome entrance into the stadium through the arches on the east end. It was actually really cool. From there they methodically crushed us with "Tribute to Troy" all night long. I have to give them credit it honestly started to wear on me a little bit in the second half.
Video Board Usage C
They have a new "state of the art" video board now but in 2002 the video board was a non-factor. That said I honestly don't remember much about it good or bad.
I'm certain that several of you have made trips to the Coliseum to watch the Fighting Irish. What was your experience like?