Culver City Observer -

Rams In The Coliseum: Here's How It Happened

 

Fred Altieri

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was the home of the Los Angeles Rams football team for 34 years from 1946 to 1979. It is fitting and well-timed that the historical stadium will serve as the Rams' home playing field before the they move into their permanent confines in Inglewood beginning with the 2019 NFL season.

It was not a foregone conclusion that the Coliseum was going to be the Rams' temporary stadium of choice. The Coliseum was not notified of the decision until January 12 of this year, the day the NFL announced the owners had approved of the Rams' move back to Los Angeles from St. Louis where they had played from 1995 to 2015.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum General Manager Joe Furin recently took time out from the facility's very demanding schedule to give a behind the scenes account of the process, the organization's structure and the logistics involved in preparing to host the Los Angeles Rams for the next three seasons.

"We as the facility first responded to the NFL in late summer 2015, where they put out an RFP (request for proposal)," began Furin. "They invited us, the Rose Bowl and other facilities in the area: "If a team comes to L.A. would you be interested and could you please outline rent structure?" There were also the basic questions."

"So for us it didn't necessarily start with the January announcement. We had no idea which team it was going to be. Since August we had been speculating about what would happen and had a couple of months of internal discussions about what the possibility would be like and what scenarios might come into play.

"The vote didn't catch us completely by surprise. We were pleasantly surprised to find out it was the Rams. Not that we were rooting for anyone but coming full circle it made a lot of sense that the Rams would be returning to what was their original L.A. home."

As general manager of the Coliseum Furin is a University of Southern California employee. In 2013 USC assumed management rights for the Coliseum and the Sports Arena property.

Furin actually started working for the Coliseum Commission back in 1986. He left after nine years of service and returned in 2011.

Furin relies heavily on his immediate staff, also USC employees: Brian Grant, Director of Operations, and Kevin Daly, Director of Events and Customer Service. Furin reports to Dan Stimmler, Vice President of Auxiliary Services and Chief Operating Officer for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

"Brian and Kevin are my two rock stars to help pull this together. I actually hired them after the transition. I hired Brian from the University of Minnesota where he was running facilities over there. So it fits well in his background and he also had the university experience.

"Kevin I hired from the San Diego Chargers. He was with Chargers for 17 years. He had stadium experience, football experience, etc. The person I report to is Vice President Dan Stimmler. However, he's housed on campus so I'm the 365 rep here.

"Dan's very engaged about what goes on and then carries that through to senior administration to keep them posted for something like the security upgrades and other issues."

The Coliseum is controlled by the Coliseum Commission which is the oversight government body for the building and the property. It is made up of City, County and State representatives. Before USC assumed management the Coliseum Commission oversaw the day-to-day activities. Everybody reported directly to them.

Furin: "Now it's a management contract. So the Coliseum Commission serves as the University's landlord. We, the University have all the day-to-day operating control including the capital improvements. The Commission still has approval rights and certain things like that.

"But basically it is a financial reporting obligation that the University has to the Commission as our landlord. We are in effect, 365/24/7, the ones operating the facility.

"We have the autonomy to book the events, cut the deals, find the subcontractors whether it's food and beverage, security or something like that. So we have absolute "final say in all those projects.

"Projects like capital improvements that talk about the structure of the facility, the historic nature of the facility, the Commission still has a buy-in and approval rights to things like that. We still work hand-in-hand with them."

During the summer and autumn of 2015 the NFL vetted the local venues interested in housing the Rams for the 2016-18 seasons. Furin and his staff were intent on making the Coliseum the primary and logical choice as the time to make the decision approached.

"Somewhere in December the NFL reached back to make sure there was an understanding of how the stadium operated and what the terms were. So we clarified those points in December.

"We had a feeling as the NFL was calling: "Hey, we want to double-check those terms. Do those still apply? Has anything changed?" We had a feeling we were definitely in the running but nothing was certain.

"The same day of the NFL's announcement Roger Goodell came out in his announcement and said the Rams were awarded Los Angeles and they would be playing at the Coliseum. We were pleasantly surprised. We didn't know we had been selected as the facility until it was announced."

The NFL came out to the L.A. Coliseum prior to the announcement to view the place. Since the announcement both the NFL and the Rams have been to the stadium numerous times. Establishing a solid working relationship with the Rams was a top priority for Furin and his team.

"The Rams first order of magnitude was moving out of St. Louis and getting established locally which they've done. Now they're in L.A. where we can have these meetings on a weekly and bi-weekly basis.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum General Manager Joe Furin

"We've just started them in May but they will be continuous leading all the way up to the season. The in-the-weeds details are a lot. How are they going to ticket the stadium, their parking plan? Different things like that. My team and the Rams want to make sure we're on the same page and get into it.

"Without putting any words in their mouth they're happy with the way the building is for now. It will suffice for three years and off we go. We've enjoyed a great relationship with them so far. They're a great team to work with. They're very accommodating.

"I think it's a nice story. One: they're returning to Los Angeles, returning to the stadium that they once called home. How much weight that carried in the decision I can't say but I think it fit in there very nicely."

 

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