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Ron Kaye: Big city, small city

September 30, 2011|By Ron Kaye

This tale of two treasures of the greater Los Angeles area — two National Historic Landmarks, two venerable stadiums built at the same time 90 years ago — says a lot about the role of politics and leadership in determining the fate of our communities and institutions.

Both the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum are aging structures, relics of a bygone era in many ways, facing unprecedented new challenges.

Competition is coming with construction of a brand new state-of-the-art stadium to house two National Football League teams either in the city of Industry or, more likely, in downtown L.A. a short distance from the Coliseum.

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No more Super Bowls, no more World Cups, fewer if any big concerts and other major special events that help pay the bills for any facility that is costly to operate.

For the Coliseum, everything is not coming up roses these days.

It reeks of scandal, with its top executives caught with their hands in the till, contracting with businesses they held a stake in, charging all kinds of questionable expenses to the Coliseum and, worst of all, running the stadium into the ground with deficits and no business plan.

The Coliseum — home to the Olympic Games in 1932 and 1984, a World Series and Super Bowls — faces an uncertain future, with USC pressing to take control away from the city-county-state commission that runs it — a conflict-prone joint ownership that has a lot to do with why the Coliseum lost two National Football League teams and has so many problems.

Then, there’s the Rose Bowl, the pride of Pasadena.

It was formally dedicated on Jan. 1, 1923 — five months before the Coliseum was opened — with the first Rose Bowl game, which USC won 14-3 over Penn State.

Like the Coliseum, it has been the site of many great events, including the Super Bowl, FIFA World Cups and national college football championship games, as well as the annual New Year’s Day game.

But rather than sitting content with past glory, officials began planning for the future three years ago when momentum first began to build for a new NFL stadium in the region.

They issued $152 million in bonds to provide for badly needed renovations, including wider tunnels, safety improvements, modernized bathrooms and concession stands, a rebuilt press box, a new scoreboard, a state-of-the-art video board, and thousands of premium seats that will sell for high prices to help pay for the renovations.

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