SBJ/November 27 - December 3, 2006/This Weeks News

USC’s work in progress

The Galen Center played host to its first
USC men’s basketball game on Nov. 16.

University of Southern California students and alumni can overlook the fact that Galen Center is operating largely as an unfinished building, considering the arena has been 126 years in the making.

In 2005, university officials discovered an ancient capital construction plan document while preparing for USC’s 125th anniversary that called for erecting a sports and entertainment facility as the third building on campus.

Several fundraising efforts failed before the latest one took hold in 1999. The school dedicated Galen Center on Oct. 21, coincidentally, seven years to the day after the fundraising campaign kicked off, and almost two years after construction began.

“There has been so much skepticism, just the fact that it was built is huge,” said designer Joe Diesko, HNTB’s project leader.

Galen Center
City: Los Angeles
Owner: University of Southern California
Operator: USC
Project manager: Stan Westfall
Architect: HNTB
General contractor: Clark Construction
Cost: Arena, $105 million; practice facility, TBD.
Funding for construction (through Nov.): $142 million in private money contributed or pledged, including $50 million from Louis Galen; $40 million from other philanthropists to name other facility spaces; $12 million from Founders Club seat licenses; and $10 million from an anonymous donor to name the court for Jim Sterkel.
Seating capacity: 10,258
Seat licenses: 3,500
Food provider: Aramark
Retail operator: USC Bookstore
Scoreboard: Daktronics
Seat provider: Irwin Seating Co.
Pouring rights: Coca-Cola

“We’ve been told it was due to our sheer determination and being as ornery as we are,” said Carol Dougherty, USC’s senior associate athletic director and the school’s representative for arena development.

USC is a private school and received no state-approved subsidies or bond money to initially finance construction for its new 10,258-seat building. The university was on its own to raise enough money for the project and, as a result, the development of a home to replace the Los Angeles Sports Arena has been at times a piecemeal process.

Dougherty also acknowledged that “when we realized our wants had gone beyond our budget, we took a look at the things that could be deferred not on a pricing basis, but the ease of adding them later.”

The facility development team did realize, however, that it was more practical to build the 35,000-square-foot practice pavilion at the same time the arena was being constructed.

Building everything at once allowed the university to speed up the renovation of the old practice facility, known as the PE Building, and turn it into a student services center, Dougherty said.

The skyrocketing cost of building materials and increased demand for skilled labor during California’s construction boom also factored into the decision to build the entire complex in one phase, Diesko said.

“It would have cost another $50 million to build this now due to the costs of concrete and steel,” he said.

USC has generated $142 million in contributions and pledges to cover the entire project but that figure remains in flux because some of that money will not be available until the next two years and the school’s board of regents has not approved spending the entire amount, Dougherty said.

The USC athletics Hall of Fame, a project that has been approved and funded to recognize the school’s 11 varsity sports, remains in the development phase, and the school has to find $1 million in the budget to install a 500-foot-long LED ribbon board.

“We are hoping that … we have a slight surplus as those last pledges are paid that we can use to cover some of the things that are not done,” Dougherty said.


Students created a Trojan white-out,
filling the section behind one basket.
Student Section
About 2,000 lower-bowl seats behind the basket on the north end and in the northwest corner are reserved for students and the rowdy USC pep band. On opening night, it was the only seating section that appeared to be completely filled. Students stood out in the crowd wearing white T-shirts honoring Ryan Francis, the Trojans’ point guard last season, who was shot and killed in May in Baton Rouge, La.

Jim Sterkel Court
An anonymous donor gave USC a $10 million gift to name the basketball playing surface in honor of his late friend Jim Sterkel, a USC basketball player during the 1950s who died in 1997. The school collected an additional $40 million in donations to name seating sections, coaches’ offices, practice courts, locker rooms and other back-of-house spaces.

North walkway
The north end zone is open behind the student section, and the exterior glass wall provides a panoramic view of downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains. The north walkway provides ample space for local television stations to produce live remotes, capturing the seating bowl in the background.

Practice pavilion
The 35,000-square-foot building attached to the arena provides much-needed practice space for the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams. Each of the four programs gets one and a half practice courts. The pavilion can be divided into nine volleyball courts for local tournaments.

The court name came through a $10
million gift from an anonymous donor.

Food and Drink
Aramark contributed an undisclosed amount of money to help finance construction in return for a 10-year concessions and premium dining contract and a separate facilities maintenance agreement.

There are 48 points of sale encompassing regular concessions and the Brian and Susan Kennedy Founders Club, the 7,500-square-foot banquet space reserved for seat-license holders.

Galen Center was designed to serve draft beer, but after USC changed its policy in 2005 to ban alcohol sales in public areas during sports events, officials did not buy the big coolers and pumping systems required to operate beer taps at fixed concession stands. Aramark is allowed to sell draft and bottled beer from portable carts during concerts, and the Founders Club has a fully stocked bar.

Six of nine available suites are rented,
and more will go to market next season.

Suites
USC decided to put the arena’s 22 suites at the top of the building because school officials did not think there would be big demand for suites and were more interested in placing their biggest donors closer to the court, said HNTB’s Joe Diesko. The additional cost to build skyboxes on a separate middle level was another factor, Diesko said.

As of opening night, USC had sold six of nine suites available on the east side. The athletic department has not started selling the 11 west-side units, which aren’t yet finished. The plan is to complete and lease them by the time the women’s volleyball season starts in August.

The four center-court suites sell for $50,000 annually. The six units closest to the north end do not provide clear views for concerts and will be reduced from $40,000 to $30,000 a year and open for athletic events only. Guests in those suites who attend end-stage shows will be relocated to lower-bowl seats.

The Founders Club serves seat-
license holders before the game.

The 18 standard suites seat 12 people. The four event rental suites each contain 24 fixed seats and seven bar stools.

L.A.-based Anschutz Entertainment Group bought a suite.

Seating
About 3,500 seats are part of the Founders Club program, in which alumni and USC boosters buy seat licenses ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 for the right to buy season tickets. The 2,200 seats between the end lines in the lower bowl are sold out. USC has generated about $12 million toward its $17 million goal in seat-license revenue.

HNTB designed no more than 12 seats to a row along the sidelines in the lower deck and increased the number of aisles in those sections from the customary three to four walkways to six access points to accommodate the greater number of older alumni sitting there, Diesko said.

The arena store is to open this week, but
merchandise was on sale on the concourse.
The first two rows of seats in the lower bowl on the east and west sides can be removed for concerts. The maroon seats contrast with the school’s cardinal red detailing on the court.

Merchandise
The 3,000-square-foot L-shaped retail store near the main entrance is scheduled to open Thursday. The USC Bookstore operates the space and shares revenue equally with the athletic department.

The store will sell Nike-produced apparel and the Team Trojan brand, the school’s private label, which includes high-end Tommy Bahama leisure shirts containing the school logo.

The plan is to carry some merchandise exclusive to the arena store.

USC is looking for one more company
to join its trio of founding sponsors.

Sponsors
AT&T, Coca-Cola and Office Depot, the arena’s three founding sponsors, each committed to paying $6 million over a six-year period to help fund construction. About 50 other sponsors account for $7.5 million in annual revenue, and those deals include the football and baseball programs.

The three companies are new sponsors and receive in-arena signs, single-event suite use and lower-bowl seats. They will eventually get 24/7 exposure on a marquee to be installed outside the arena and visible to motorists driving on the 110 Freeway.

USC continues to search for a fourth founding sponsor representing the financial services, fast food, automotive or airline categories, associate athletic director Jose Eskenazi said.

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