Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The proud and stately Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has been home to quite a number of events and teams over almost 90 years of existence — most prominently the USC Trojans’ football team but also every other team that has played football in L.A. at some point, from UCLA to the Rams and Raiders and even the old, Steve Young-led Express of the USFL.
And don’t forget the two Olympics that Los Angeles hosted and that the Coliseum served as the centerpiece for, as reminders of the stadium’s Olympic heritage can be found pretty much everywhere you look inside the grand old lady.
USC has had the Coliseum to itself for a number of years now and, after gaining control over the master lease, is undergoing a series of modern renovations that would bring, among other things, new videoboards and more luxury suites and seating areas. However, since 2016, they’ve been sharing the place with the Rams, who returned to the city after more than 20 years in St. Louis and in the process of building a new palace in the L.A. suburb of Inglewood.
With the return of the Rams, we thought it was a good time to take a fresh look at the Coliseum and the gameday experience there, this time through the lens of the NFL fan, as we attended the spectacle of the Rams’ first preseason game since their return. (For a more USC-specific guide to the Coliseum, click here.)
For more on visiting the Los Angeles area, check out our Los Angeles city guide.
- The Approach
Located a few miles south of downtown L.A. in Exposition Park, across the street from the USC campus, the Coliseum is centrally located in a dense area of the city. The neighborhood gained a reputation in the 1980s and ’90s as being unsafe, in part because of the 1992 L.A. riots and the problems the city experienced with gangs during that time, but safety has significantly improved since then and incidents during large-scale events at the Coliseum are rare.
Two of the city’s major freeway routes, Interstates 110 (Harbor Freeway) and 10 (Santa Monica Freeway) run nearby, but in an already traffic-heavy city, those routes become even more congested before Coliseum events. That’s especially true for the Exposition Boulevard exit off the 110, the closest off-ramp to the Coliseum/Exposition Park grounds.
Parking is even more of an issue. Though the stadium is surrounded by a few lots and grassy areas where fans can park and tailgate (you can see a parking map here), those lots — as well as the large structures on the USC campus — are designated as permit-only for Rams games, so parking is at a major premium. Some owners of nearby private lots took advantage of this by jacking up their prices for the first preseason game, and there’s no indication that parking inventory will improve.
The major alternative to driving is the Metro rail system — since the Expo Line between downtown and Culver City (later extended farther west to Santa Monica) opened in 2012, Metro has been increasingly popular with USC fans, and if the 2016 preseason was any indication, Rams fans will be packing the trains as well. Get off at either the Expo Park/USC or Expo/Vermont stations to access the Coliseum via a short walk through Exposition Park. After games, expect at least a half-hour wait to board a train, though the crush of fans is typically managed pretty well.
- The Build-Up
For Rams games at the Coliseum, tailgating is largely restricted to the aforementioned permit-only lots surrounding the stadium. Meaning, if you aren’t a season-ticket holder or aren’t willing to pony up for a permit on a secondary ticket site, you’re probably out of luck. Unlike for USC games, where fans have the luxury of setting up tailgate parties in most open spaces on campus, the campus is off-limits to tailgaters for Rams games.
The Rams, as does USC, operate a gameday party on the Coliseum lawn, east of the stadium’s peristyle end — it’s your typical team-sponsored pregame party, with food booths, games, live music and more.
If you’d rather not do that, there are a number of fast-food joints nearby on Figueroa Street and a few more the farther north you go — but the establishments are geared more toward a college community than a sports-fan scene. For a better selection of bars and eateries, look toward the downtown area and districts such as L.A. Live, across the street from Staples Center. From there, you’re a short Metro ride away, but beware of crowded trains the closer you get to kickoff.
- The Ambiance
After more than 90 years of holding all sorts of events, the Coliseum does show its age, despite efforts to fix it up over the years. If you’re sitting in the lower part of the bowl, you have to pass through long tunnels to get in; if you’re up in the nosebleeds, you’ve got to climb a long staircase to get to the upper concourse (though there are also escalators available), then another trudge up the aisle to get to some of the uppermost rows. Cracked concrete and peeling paint are common sights, and don’t count on watching the game if you’re not at your seat — the TVs on the concourses are often tiny.
USC’s planned renovation, scheduled to be complete in time for the 2019 football season, aims to change much of this. In the meantime, you can see the impermanent fixes made to try to give the stadium a modern feel, such as the portable suites set up at the peristyle end (including some at field level, a new addition for the Rams).
Despite all that, the history is part of the reason the Coliseum is worth visiting. If it’s your first visit, definitely spend some time exploring the peristyle end, where the Olympic torch still resides (and is lit up at every USC game). There are plaques dedicated to the 1932 and 1984 games inside the peristyle, and the well-known nude statues, modeled after two 1984 Olympians, stand in front of it.
The Coliseum’s main concourse is its perimeter, as with so much real estate, the stadium takes advantage by inviting vendors of all sorts to sell their grub. So the food selection is impressive, from food trucks that set up near the peristyle to numerous independent restaurants and caterers that sell out of tents lined up around the concourse. From Greek food to Korean BBQ to wings to ribs to Kettle Korn to cookies — there’s quite a bit to choose from.
Just know, though, that the selection isn’t nearly as close to that wide in the upper concourse (it’s mostly stadium-operated concessions and thus is limited to standard-issue items like hot dogs and popcorn), so if you’re looking for something different, buy your food before you head upstairs.
With such a large seating bowl — the Coliseum was originally designed to hold a track, after all — some sections can be far removed from the action. In particular, be wary of the sections closest to the peristyle (Sections 1-3 and 26-29), which are positioned behind the bleacher area set up next to the east end zone and typically aren’t sold for games unless the demand calls for it. So far, Rams games have necessitated the demand as the honeymoon for the team’s return continues.
Los Angeles Rams,
3911 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90037
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