United Airlines has struck a revised naming rights agreement for Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the University of Southern California (USC) after the terms of the original deal were met with criticism earlier this year.
In January 2018, it was announced that United would support the $270m (£212.2m/€238.5m) redevelopment of the stadium after agreeing a naming-rights deal for the venue. Under a 16-year contract with USC, the stadium’s operators, the 93,000-capacity venue was due to become the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum from August.
The stadium opened in 1923 and was originally commissioned as a memorial to honour the city’s World War I veterans. It was later rededicated in 1968, the 50th anniversary of the Armistice, to include all who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I.
This connection to the armed forces led to criticism over the suitability of attaching a sponsor’s name to the stadium. In March, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn condemned the sponsorship deal in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times newspaper, saying: “Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is not just a stadium – it is a war memorial. Removing ‘Los Angeles’ and replacing it with a corporate sponsor insults the memories of those the Coliseum was intended to honour.”
Hahn is the president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, which gave USC control of the stadium as part of a 98-year lease agreement. Following the controversy over the deal, USC and United have now revised the contract, changing it so the airline will have naming rights to the field, rather than the stadium itself.
Under the new 10-year deal commencing in August, the field at the historic landmark will be referred to as United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The cost of the redevelopment project has now risen to $315m and the United deal had been seen as a key part of raising the necessary funds.
Under the terms of the previous agreement, United would have paid USC $69m over 16 years. Maggie Schmerin, a spokesperson for United Airlines, told the Times that the amount of money paid for the new 10-year contract will not be disclosed.
USC interim president Wanda Austin said in a statement: “The naming of the field is a significant step in USC’s efforts to usher in a modern era for this historic landmark and preserve its legacy. Through this process, USC was guided by doing the right thing for the community as we continue to honour our veterans.”
Janet Lamkin, United Airlines’ president in California, added: “United has a long history in Los Angeles, serving the city for more than 80 years. With so many employees, many of whom are proud veterans themselves, and customers that travel to or call the area home, this sponsorship is a meaningful way to underscore our commitment to California.
“We always want to do what is best for the communities in which we operate – and in this case, reaching an agreement which upholds the name of such a respected venue while modernising it for the benefit of future generations was the right thing to do.”
In addition to the stadium’s renovation, as part of this new agreement USC and United have worked together to identify additional ways to honour local veterans including providing support for veterans who attend USC as well as erecting a memorial in honour of veterans at the Coliseum. More details on these initiatives will be shared as the programs are finalised.
The Coliseum, which is the only venue in the world to have hosted two Olympic Games, two Super Bowls and a World Series, was declared a state and national historic landmark in 1984. The stadium will host a third Olympics when Los Angeles stages the event in 2028.