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United Airlines agrees to altered Coliseum naming rights deal

LOS ANGELES — Responding to concerns from veterans groups over plans to change the name of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum under a lucrative naming-rights agreement with United Airlines, USC and the airline reached a revised agreement that will maintain the venue’s name.

Under the revised 10-year deal, which was announced June 7, the field at the stadium will be referred to as United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“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,” interim USC President Wanda Austin said in a statement. “Through this process, USC was guided by doing the right thing for the community as we continue to honor our veterans.”

United and USC announced a 16-year, $69 million naming-rights deal in January 2018, under which the stadium’s name would have changed to United Airlines Memorial Coliseum.

Earlier this year, however, some veterans groups came out in opposition to the change, arguing the stadium was originally dedicated as a memorial to veterans of World War I and that changing the name would dilute that dedication.

County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who chairs the Coliseum Commission that oversees the venue, joined the opposition in March, saying the Coliseum is more war memorial than sports stadium. She cited other historical events — including the 1932 and 1984 summer Olympic Games and visits by Pope John Paul and Nelson Mandela — in making her case for tradition. She suggested the switch to United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

United officials said at the time it would be willing to step away from the deal altogether if there was opposition to the name change.

The airline and university did not release financial details of the revised agreement, so it was unclear whether United will still pay the original $69 million amount. The length of the agreement, however, was shortened from the original 16 years to 10 years.

“United has a long history in Los Angeles, serving the city for more than 80 years,” said Janet Lamkin, United’s California president. “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.”

She said “reaching an agreement which upholds the name of such a respected venue while modernizing it for the benefit of future generations was the right thing to do.”

Funds from the naming-rights agreement will go toward the $315 million cost of renovating the stadium. The deal will take effect in August.

USC operates the Coliseum under a 98-year lease deal struck in 2013 with its city, county and state owners. The state is entitled to 5 percent of naming revenues under that agreement.

Wave Wire Services