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Volume 23 No. 13
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Rams’ temporary home short on premium

The coliseum’s premium offerings are limited to temporary structures in an end zone.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the print edition.

The newly rechristened Los Angeles Rams face a substantial drop in premium seat revenue after moving from St. Louis to archaic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, their home for the next three seasons.

Long term, though, the decline in a key revenue stream should be just a blip on the radar screen for the Rams. When they move into their new palace in Inglewood in 2019, the best suites could sell for $1 million a season, according to industry sources.

Considering the Rams placed near the bottom of the NFL in suite revenue at $12 million annually at St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome, a figure that came from a CSL International study tied to the old Farmers Field project, there is tremendous upside ahead for the club in the nation’s second-biggest market, sources said.

This week, Rams officials are expected to meet with the stadium’s general manager, Joe Furin, to complete an agreement for the team’s return to the venue that it called home from 1946 to 1979. The organization will share it with the University of Southern California, the building’s primary tenant since it opened in 1923 and the stadium’s operator since 2013. Together, they will conduct a walk-through of the building to identify potential upgrades to meet the Rams’ needs on NFL game days. The Rams will pay for any potential retrofits, Furin said.

It’s unclear just how much premium revenue the Rams will see from the stadium’s scant premium offerings because what they’ll have to sell, how much it will cost and who will do the selling are still being decided.

“We are reviewing all of the inventory and should have a manifest ready around the Super Bowl,” said Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ executive vice president of football operations and chief operating officer.

There’s room for some creativity on the premium side. The Rams will play all three seasons in a 93-year-old building with no permanent suites and a makeshift setup for accommodating premium patrons. (Work will begin after the 2017 season on a $270 million renovation that includes a mix of suites, club seats and loge boxes, but the project won’t be complete before the Rams leave for their new home.)

For USC football games, three temporary structures house suites and club seats behind the east end zone. For the past two seasons, a tented structure at field level has been divided into 12 sections that can fit a total of 100 customers. Legends, the facility’s concessionaire, sells those field-level spaces as part of its food service deal with USC. Steve Lopes, USC senior associate athletic director, said those units are priced at $75,000 to $95,00 for the season depending on size and location.

Upstairs, situated among the stadium’s historic peristyles in the east end, USC sets up 10 temporary suites branded for Audi, designed with movable walls to expand those spaces for up to 70 people. USC Sports Properties, a division of Fox Sports, the school’s multimedia rights holder, sells those suites for about $25,000 a game, said Dan Shell, the group’s general manager and vice president. Those suites have been in place for USC football since 2012.

Demoff said the Rams’ premium inventory is “likely to include the temporary premium seating options at the coliseum.”

One plus for the coliseum is its number of standard seats: It has more than 93,000. The coming renovations will reduce that number, but it will still allow the Rams to make up some of the lost premium revenue after moving from the smaller Edward Jones Dome.

Longtime sports executive Andy Dolich knows firsthand what the Rams are going through based on his experience after the former Vancouver Grizzlies relocated to Memphis and played at the Pyramid for three years before moving into FedEx Forum, their new arena, in 2004. At the time, Dolich served as the team’s president of business operations, and the Pyramid had only 25 suites with no private entrance and few places to add premium.

“Whatever challenges they have at the coliseum, you look at what you’re going to have in Inglewood,” Dolich said. “Even though the facility they’re [moving into] doesn’t have the bells and whistles of Inglewood … it’s a positive sales opportunity.”

The three-year stretch at the coliseum provides the Rams with a “good, long runway” to properly establish their sales team for the new stadium and build up a healthy season-ticket base heading into 2019, said Jason Gonella, most recently in charge of selling premium seats for U.S. Bank Stadium. Gonella is now an executive vice president for the Oak View Group, the new company founded and co-owned by Tim Leiweke, Irving Azoff and Dan Griffis.
Their firm, as well as Legends and Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment, have been in discussions with the Rams to sell premium seats, sponsorships and naming rights for the Inglewood project, sources said. As of last week, no deals were signed, Demoff said.