LA Business Council, 2019 Under Construction Design Award
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was built in 1923, and the USC Trojans played their inaugural game on October 6, 1923. Since then, it’s also hosted two Olympics, two Super Bowls, a World Series, a Papal Mass, visits from three U.S. Presidents, and scores of additional sporting and social events. We led the design of a $300-million and modernization encompassing well over 1,000,000 total square feet to honor the tradition and heritage of the historic facility while reinventing the game-day experience for fans.
A focal point of the modernization is the design and construction of a new suite and press tower on the south side of the stadium that added multiple suites, loge boxes, club seats, press box, and a new concourse. This new suite tower was inserted seamlessly into the existing stadium bowl. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is one of four historic athletic stadiums designated as National Historic Landmarks by the National Park Service. The design retains the coliseum’s official landmark status while also being sensitive to the place the coliseum plays in the culture of Los Angeles and the United States. The modernized Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum retains the historic coliseum look, texture, and impression, and a key design intent was to faithfully restore the iconic peristyle’s former majestic presence.
The stadium has seen changes over the years to accommodate updated uses and seismic strengthening; however, the basic design configuration, including its complex geometric footprint, curved peristyle, and primary concrete structure have remained the same since 1923. The coliseum is a State Historical Landmark and was designated as a National Historic Landmark when listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The $315 million renovation updated the facility while restoring its iconic historic elements. It re-opened to professional and collegiate football in August 2019.
The design maintains the historical integrity of the coliseum by preserving its most recognizable feature – the east end zone peristyle, in addition to the entire perimeter enclosure and shape of the seating bowl. A new seven-story tower is embedded seamlessly into the upper half of the south seating bowl and features premium event viewing for patrons, open concourse views to the field, extensive press facilities, and social and event spaces for use 365 days per year. Additional improvements throughout the facility include upgraded game entertainment systems for fan enjoyment including new scoreboards; an improved sound system; and enhanced cellular service and Wi-Fi coverage of the entire stadium and site. To upgrade fan comfort, areas of the seating bowl have been renovated to provide more leg room, wider chairs, additional aisles for easier access and handrails in all aisles for safety. Every seat in the stadium now has a new armchair.
To further maintain the historic character of the facility, system improvements are largely invisible. No devices were mounted on the peristyle or historic façade.
The design concept centered around a confluence of the historic character and USC brand with an influence of Hollywood Regency-era vocabulary from 1923, the year the coliseum was built. Carrera marble walls, gold and bronze accents, warm wood tones with distinct graining, and a subtle touch of the USC cardinal and gold accents create a sense of pageantry as visitors move through spaces.
Along the exterior, the interior draws from the Hollywood Regency-era design vocabulary of 1923. As visitors approach the field, finishes grow more saturated in the USC brand palette.
Enhanced seating options include the Trojan Athletic Fund seating which replaced every seat in the stadium bowl and installed handrails throughout; adding aisles and repairing steps to enhance safety. The design intervention widened seats and increased leg room in many sections; upgraded entry concourses, installed new field and stadium lighting, improved audio and video with two new large screens on the east end of the stadium; updated Wi-Fi throughout the venue; and updated electrical, and mechanical and plumbing systems. A new concourse provides up-scale food offerings.
The USC Trojans and LA Rams played the 2018 season in the coliseum during the renovation.
A new concourse takes a building designed in the 1920s for the singular focus of giving a fan a seat in a bowl and redefines a modern, game-day experience.
Inserting the Scholarship Tower
The new seven-story Scholarship Tower is embedded seamlessly into the upper half of the south seating bowl and features new premium event viewing for patrons. In past renovation studies, consideration was given to locating the addition behind and above the stadium, reaching out over the seating bowl. This approach would have covered up 30% of the façade, been five stories taller than the existing high point of the stadium and put the premium seating 90 rows from the field. By locating the addition within the seating bowl, we removed only 17% of the historic structure, kept seating close to the field, and allowed the entirety of the perimeter coliseum walls to be maintained in their original condition.
The new structure, built around the concrete of the old tower, doesn’t resist the old structure, but instead uses the new one to offload the old one. Slide-bearing connection joints surround the old tower, maintaining up to 9 inches of space to allow the old and new towers to move independently from each other. Because of this, the engineering team could design the new portion to the requirements of modern code without imposing that code on the historic portion. In the event of an earthquake, the Tower would sway independently of its concrete roots. Aesthetically, “the existing structure of the stadium is maintained, expressing it in the club lounge,” Barnum says. “People should recognize it as the stadium structure.”
Reimagining the Scholarship Tower
The Scholarship Tower holds Founders Suites on two levels; 1,100 club seats; 24 loge boxes with lounge access; 26 upper suites; and a rooftop terrace. The addition creates a memorable guest experience through added amenities, breathtaking sightlines, upscale finishes, and overall prestige.
Topping off structure is the 1923 Club, offering field views and 360-degree panoramas of Los Angeles. Custom graphics tell the stories from this historic location. Guests are treated to visually impactful stories and graphics of the USC Trojans accomplishments, significant coliseum events, and historical Los Angeles moments.
Inside Look at the Iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Revamp
DLR Group’s Don Barnum, Bob Carlson, and Jose Sanchez walk us through the $315-million renovation and modernization of the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Learn more about the design influences and project challenges in the revamp of this national historic landmark.
In the Media
Rebuilding History: Modernizing the L.A. Memorial Coliseum
August 20, 2019
Read the details of our design strategy for 235,000 new square feet of space in the existing coliseum, without eliminating the historic feel of a bowl originally built in a park or altering the building’s famed façade.