Culver City Observer -

Having USC Helps Coliseum Staff Prepare For The Rams

 

Fred Altieri

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum General Manager Joe Furin

As General Manager of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Joe Furin oversees all the operations for what happens at the stadium's events.

He and his staff are implementing procedures to accommodate two football teams for the next three years: the Los Angeles Rams and the building's permanent tenant, the legendary USC Trojans.

"We host USC football as everyone knows so this was not anything out of the ordinary," he said. "We knew we could handle football games. Adding the NFL on wasn't a stretch for us. So we're very happy with the way it played out.

"Our lease is with our landlord the Coliseum Commission and there's another landlord above them which is the 6th District Agricultural Association which controls Exposition Park on behalf of the State. So not to get too complicated, there are basically two leases: one we have with the Commission and one we have with the State.

"Both of those leases explicitly said we have the right to have one NFL team for a period of no more than four years. So that fit in with the plans that the Inglewood stadium would be built in a couple years. They could play here for three years and then off they go.

"If there are delays that for Inglewood for whatever reason, we could not extend beyond the four years without going back to the Commission, back to the State for approval."

Maintaining the security of the Coliseum is a top priority. The NFL required additional security upgrades to the facility as one of its conditions in approving the location as the home of the Rams through the 2018 season.

"The largest difference from the Rams' NFL games to the NCAA is the security requirements. The NFL requires people to use magnetometers, walk-through metal detectors. There's a whole series of security measures that have been in place for a good reason: unfortunately the sign of the times dictates that public assemblage facilities are targets.

"The NFL has stringent requirements that the NCAA does not have only because the NCAA is a little more fragmented with the conferences and the individual schools. We have to install magnetometers at all of our gate entrances.

"We have to enhance our security fence line with bollards and areas where traffic goes. The NFL has a bigger safety perimeter. Other than that, it's a football game: 60, 70, 80,000 people."

"The 2024 Olympics are around the corner. Knock on wood if we get that bid we almost assuredly would have to have these measures in place. We are adopting the magnetometers as they will now be facility standard for all Coliseum events."

The Coliseum will benefit from having the Rams playing there in several ways as outlined by Furin:

"There are number of benefits with the Rams coming to play at the Coliseum. The biggest thing is the revenue generation. That's a percentage of the ticket sales that goes into the operating fund. That funds projects and pays for improvements. That would be first and foremost.

"The second thing would be with the Rams we have a guarantee of nine events a year. That means employment for our concession stand workers, our security people. Those are additional opportunities for them to make their wages and be employed for those events.

"The third benefit is if you look at the overall package, the more events you do here the better it is for partnerships, for the attendees. It all goes back into making improvements in the customer service level.

"Things that we may not have been able to improve because of my operating budget we now may be able to accelerate and do it earlier: lighting, way-finding signage and things like that to make the customer experience that much better."

The Coliseum and the Rams each have certain obligations and commitments on game days. Furin sees no reason to reinvent the wheel to host a professional football team.

"From a facility standpoint we lease the building. There are still certain things that we cover which is a lot of front-of-house. There is back-of-house stuff. The Rams have the teams. They handle the officials, what happens on the field and the media."

"We take care of the front-of-house which is the customer. They come through the gate, buy hotdogs, use the restrooms and go to their seats. We want to make sure that customer has a good experience, comes in and enjoys the game, the concession lines are short and the restrooms are clean.

"We do this on a very regular basis. We do it for USC football whether it's the Notre Dame or UCLA game with 90,000 people. We have no lack of confidence that we can handle a stadium full of fans on a regular basis."

Furin discussed the logistics in coordinating the two football teams' needs: "The points of discussion: what are the Rams going to do in the end zone? So if we do have a USC game on a Saturday and a Rams game on a Sunday how are we going to paint them?

"What time are gates going to open? What are you going to use this entrance for? What type of food and beverage offerings do you want to have for your press box people versus the concession stand people walking up?

"Once we sat around the table with the Rams we figured out a way to minimize it. We want to protect the grass throughout the whole season and make it as good as possible for both teams. The comfort level is there. They're very accommodating.

"The USC Trojans are our primary tenant. We host six or seven football games a year. So it's very important for me to have a team that understood football, understood the university environment and understood the facilities.

"I really have a right hand and a left hand that I lean heavily on. The electrical and the building, all the things that should be invisible to the customer, that's all Brian Grant's job. He and his staff are knee deep in making sure that happens, not just for the Rams but every event we have.

"Brian has been on the team meeting with the Rams as well as another gentleman, Kevin Daly, who handles all the event execution when it comes to ordering the police, ordering the security, the ticket takers, the liaison with the Rams and what's going to happen that day.

"It's Kevin and his team that gets all that information and disseminates it to all the people on our end that need to know about it, whether that's the Park people, the Department of Transportation, LAPD for the streets, LAFD...

Fred Altieri

L.A. Coliseum - looking east from the west end zone

"The enthusiasm has been great from the moment in January when they made the announcement. You walk through Exposition Park and see Rams jerseys on people. You see them poking in the fence. They can't wait. I think the Rams would echo that. The fan base has welcomed them with open arms.

"We're excited to have the Rams. We humbly think of this place as the greatest stadium in the world. We have a history and a legacy that no one else can match with two Super Bowls, a World Series, the history of USC being here, UCLA, the two Olympics.

"You start talking about the dignitaries from John F. Kennedy to FDR, Ronald Reagan. There's pop culture with Evel Knievel, the Harlem Globetrotters. This was the start of Mickey Thompson's off-road series. It's 93 years of an incredible history so we're very thankful and happy that the Los Angeles Rams are returning."

 

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