Amidst backlash to an upcoming name change, United Airlines has offered to withdraw from a $69-million agreement for Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum naming rights.
The historic LA Memorial Coliseum is undergoing a major multi-phase renovation led by USC, with the project set to wrap up ahead of the 2019 season (the above rendering depicts the results of the renovation). With work on the project underway, it was revealed last year that United Airlines and USC had agreed to a 16-year, $69-million naming-rights contract to rename the venue United Airlines Memorial Coliseum and help support the renovation costs.
Technically, the new name does not go into effect until this August, coinciding with the completion of renovations. However, the upcoming name change is prompting backlash. One of the most prominent critics is Los Angeles County Supervisor and Coliseum Commission president Janice Hahn, who argued in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times last week that swapping out the “Los Angeles” component of the name for a corporate sponsor goes against the original intention of making the Coliseum a memorial to local veterans who fought and died in World War I.
Some veterans have echoed Hahn’s concerns and, in light of the criticism, United offered on Friday to step away from the agreement. No final decision has been reported, however, and it appears that USC is willing to modify rather than completely scrap the original agreement. More from the AP:
United Airlines California President Janet Lamkin said in a letter to USC official Todd Dickey that the company made “a significant commitment to financing this project” in exchange for the naming rights and was careful to keep the words “Memorial Coliseum” to honor the memory of veterans.
“If USC is not in a position to honor the terms of the agreement, including in particular the name change, United would be amenable to abiding by the wishes of the community, stepping away from this partnership with USC, and mutually terminating the agreement,” Lamkin wrote in the letter obtained by the Associated Press.
USC says it’s amenable to accepting the wishes of veterans and modifying a name change as long as United Airlines agrees.
USC issued a statement Friday saying it would accept the name United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum instead of the planned United Airlines Memorial Coliseum. USC noted that the contract would have to be modified but didn’t elaborate.
The Coliseum was originally completed in 1923, and has been home to USC football throughout its history. It has also been used for NFL action, and will host the Rams through the 2019 season as the team awaits the 2020 completion of a new stadium in Inglewood. For more on the history of the Coliseum, see this 2016 story from our own Jesse Goldberg-Strassler.
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