The California Legislative Black Caucus expressed strong opposition to giving USC control of the Coliseum’s parking lot, part of a deal that would allow USC to control the Coliseum and surrounding areas.Turf wars · The most recent proposed lease agreement for control of the Coliseum could result in continued access to parking lots for football fans, but no additional parks for the surrounding community. – Joseph Chen | Daily TrojanThe caucus wrote in a letter last week that the parking lots near the arena should be converted into parks for the South Los Angeles neighborhood.The proposed agreement between the state of California, which owns the Coliseum, and USC would allow the university to lease the Coliseum, the Sports Arena and parking lots one through six in Exposition Park. The Coliseum Commission currently manages the stadium complex for the state.As determined in meetings last year, the proposed agreements would allow USC to enter into consecutive 20-year leases for the next century. It would also give USC the option to demolish the Sports Arena and build a professional soccer stadium in its place.Vice President of Real Estate Development and Asset Management Kristina Raspe said the university is considering this new lease of the facilities because the Coliseum Commission is in breach of the lease it entered into with USC in 2008 after the commission failed to make needed repairs and improvements to the Coliseum.“We believe that the Coliseum is a local and national treasure that should be improved and preserved for many generations to come, and the Coliseum Commission does not have the financial ability to preserve it any longer,” Raspe said. “USC is willing to invest its capital to improve and maintain the Coliseum so long as it is given the ability to manage, operate and preserve the venue on a daily basis, again at USC’s expense.”Raspe believes USC will only have this ability to operate if the venue is surrounded by ample parking space.Though critics say that the proposal would allow USC too much power over the taxpayer-owned parking lots, USC officials argue that this space is crucial to the preservation of the Coliseum.“Available and affordable parking is essential to the financial viability of both the Coliseum and the Sports Arena,” Raspe said. “If USC is to invest a minimum of $70 million into the Coliseum, it must be assured that the venue is given every ability to compete with other local venues.”Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a caucus member whose district includes the Coliseum, thinks differently. The former Los Angeles City Hall real estate expert said that the deal violates a promise made by the state to eventually transform the lots into parks for the South Los Angeles community.“When the entire Legislative Black Caucus looks at the parking lots, we see green space,” Jones-Sawyer told the Los Angeles Times. “We see families. We see picnics. We see soccer fields.”The CLBC could not be reached for comment.Some students think USC should be more actively involved in running the facility, which hosts the football team’s home games.“The Coliseum is a huge part of what defines USC, our football program and our incredible school spirit,” said Mandy Raeder, a sophomore majoring in accounting. “The stadium is a historic part of USC culture, and we should be in charge of maintaining it in order to preserve those traditions. I think the parking lots are crucial to that, because it allows for more fans and alumni to come see the games.”The parking lot proposal was developed by USC and Anna Caballero, a member of Gov. Jerry Brown’s cabinet. The deal stipulates that USC would pay the state rent for the Coliseum and parking lots and also provide tens of millions of dollars in funding for improvements to the facility.The California Science Center board, which has the final authority on what will happen in Exposition Park, must approve any agreement before finalizations are made.
The last time the USC women’s swimming and diving team won a conference championship, most of the current swimmers’ and divers’ parents were still in high school. The year was 1985 — a year before the then-Pacific 10 began recognizing women’s athletics — when the Trojans swam their way to the Western Collegiate Athletic Association title.Just over three decades later, the Trojans are conference champions once again.Led by solid veteran leadership and explosive young talent, the No. 4 USC women’s swimming and diving team beat the odds to defeat Stanford, the nation’s top-ranked team; Cal, the defending conference and NCAA champions, as well as six other teams to capture the crown. A year after the men’s swimming and diving team won their first conference championship in 36 years, head coach Dave Salo understood the impact that the win had on not only this team but the entire Trojan family that they represent.“There is nothing better than making Trojan alumni and fans proud of their Trojans,” Salo said. “The drought of team championships is over for USC.”Historically, USC has boasted several outstanding individual swimmers but hasn’t been able to put together the team effort it takes to win a collective title. That script was flipped this year, as the Trojans — despite only winning three events — won the championship by over one hundred total points.USC, who finished third in the 2015 Pac-12 Championships, posted a total of 1481 points. They were followed by No. 1 Stanford, who scored 1344, and No. 6 California, with 1306. From there, the gaps between schools widened: Arizona came in fourth with 1125 points, and UCLA, Utah, Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State all finished with fewer than 1000 total points.One of USC’s individual winners, junior swimmer Chelsea Chenault, was there when the Trojans fell short of their goal last season.“It’s just an awesome experience to be the first team to ever win the Pac-12 Championship for our school,” Chenault said. “We’ve just been so strong, we’ve been fighting on this whole year.”Chenault was the individual winner in the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday evening, and freshman Elizabeth Stinson went the distance on Saturday night to win the 1650-yard freestyle. They would be the only two Trojans to win their individual events.“Nothing is more satisfying than a team championship, especially when it was as balanced as this was,” Salo said. “No one star propelled this. It was everyone taking responsibility and making a contribution.”USC’s other team victory came in the 800-yard freestyle relay on the first night of the championships, when the quartet featuring freshmen Kirsten Vose and Allie Wooden, and juniors Anika Apostalon and Chenault obliterated the school record with a time of 6:55.17. Their finish in the 800 free was good for an NCAA “A” cut time and is currently the nation’s top time in the event this year.While the Trojans certainly deserve to celebrate after their first-ever Pac-12 conference title, they won’t have long to relax. The NCAA Championships begin in mid-March at Georgia Tech, and with the confidence the team has built up after winning the conference title, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them in position to compete for their first national championship since 1997.“The lesson learned throughout this championship was that when we put our mind to something we can get it done,” Salo said. “But at this point, winning the Pac-12 championship was one of those events that can transform a team not just for the immediate NCAA championship but for many championships we may face over the next several years.”With only ten graduating seniors on the roster of 34 swimmers and divers — including fifteen talented freshmen — this may not be the last time we see the Trojans at the top of their conference in the near future.