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Civic Budget Issues Place UCLA, USC At Risk In Pac-12 Arms Race

Renovations to the Rose Bowl, UCLA's home football stadium, won't be completed until late 2014, about a year later than initially projected. The Coliseum is also lagging behind.

Presswire

Building a new stadium in the state of California presents a variety of challenges, which might explain why three of the NFL's top-five oldest stadiums -- Candlestick Park, the Oakland Coliseum and Qualcomm Stadium -- are located in the Golden State. And it also might suggest why Angel Stadium in Anaheim is the second oldest park in the American League and Dodger Stadium remains the second oldest in the National League. Facts are facts: You don't typically see new stadiums erected out here. And primarily, that's because taxpayer money isn't directed toward stadiums and private financing isn't going to cover the bill, either. So for the most part, that's why there's a stall. The one percenters aren't exactly willing to fork over all of the cash, and the state's also in the hole -- the deficit jumped from $9 billion to $16 billion last month, according to Gov. Jerry Brown. Not to mention construction costs are higher than most states and so are property values, still. Building and renovating sports stadiums along the coast are pretty expensive, and as you can see, there isn't much money available to help cover those costs, anyway.

So there's that.

And the problem lies in this: Civic financial constraints place UCLA and USC, Los Angeles' premier college football programs, at a disadvantage in the Pac-12 arms race. Neither the Bruins nor Trojans are in need of a sparkling new stadium, granted. But the Rose Bowl and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum are each 89 years old, and renovations of some form are certainly in order. University officials will tell you that, so will state and city representatives, athletic administrators from either school, coaches, players, high school recruits and pretty much anyone else you decide to pick out of a crowd.

They're already playing catch up, too, particularly among Pac-12 programs. Arizona is amid a $378 million expansion project in the north end zone of Arizona Stadium, which will add 7,000 seats. California is nearing the end of renovations to Memorial Stadium, totaling an estimated $321 million. Utah is constructing a new $30 million football complex. And at Washington, there are $250 million in renovations to Husky Stadium. Arizona State also has a tentative plan to upgrade Sun Devil Stadium, adding even a canopy. In the last decade, Pac-12 teams have spent more than a billion dollars in stadium renovations.

But in the case of UCLA and USC, though, both projects -- with regards to their home stadiums -- are fledgling. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times, citing Pasadena city officials, reported that the Rose Bowl revitalization project is $35 million over budget and behind schedule -- by about a year. It likely won't be completed until late 2014, according to the Times, and the budget gap could further increase as well, City Manager Michael Beck said.

As for the Coliseum, the Coliseum Commission, the stadium's nine-member governing body which is broke, recently relinquished operational control of the facility to USC through an 8-1 vote in mid-May. It had failed to make at least $50 million in various improvements that it was contractually obligated to provide under the existing lease agreement signed in 2008. Though, there are a few hurdles left before USC can do much in terms of renovations to the Coliseum, which is in near shambles. For one, the state has reportedly tried to block the approval of the master lease, which allows USC to manage the Coliseum.

Remember, neither school has total control of its situation. The city of Pasadena owns the Rose Bowl (sorry, Pete). And the Coliseum is jointly owned by the state, county and city of L.A. In order to do, well, anything it has to go through channels. And because the Rose Bowl and Coliseum are public venues, UCLA and USC aren't solely tasked with funding renovations. That falls at the feet of the state and the city.

To be clear: these renovations should happen eventually and I'd be surprised if otherwise. But it's a process that isn't moving with great haste and time isn't on the side of either program. Yes, USC's new John McKay Center is near completion, but that's a facility built for the entire athletic department and nearly half of it is oriented to academic services. The Coliseum is the Trojans' home stadium and the selling point for football recruits. On-campus facilities are wonderful, but stadium improvements are a necessity in 2012.

And the longer things take, the more Farmers Field beckons -- for both programs.

Follow Joey on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.