U.S. Cities Win Gold for Olympic Venue Use: Part I

Thursday, August 4, 2016

This is part one in a three-part blog series looking back at the venues of the three past U.S. Olympic cities: Los Angles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

Even though the Olympic Games are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this year, the Olympic torch will be lit at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena from August 5 to August 21 in honor of the games, as it is done for every Olympics. The only venue to be used in two separate games, the stadium is one of the most historic venues in the United States and currently plays host to major sporting events. Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City are the last three U.S. cities to host the Olympic Games, and all three cities have reused and repurposed facilities used in their Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, keeping the memory and spirit of the games alive for decades to come.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 1932 Olympic Games

The United States has hosted the Olympic Games eight times. In addition to the games in Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984, St. Louis hosted in 1904, Lake Placid in 1932 and 1980, Squaw Valley (Calif.) in 1960, Atlanta in 1996 and Salt Lake City in 2002.

Historically, hosting an Olympics has not necessarily resulted in long-term growth or ongoing success for the venues. After a regional war, Sarajevo’s venues used in the 1984 Winter Olympics have been abandoned; stadiums in Athens sit empty from the 2004 Summer Games; and Sochi, the most recent host city for the Winter Games, built entire towns that are now practically deserted. Some former host cities like Moscow (1980), Calgary (1988), Barcelona (1992), Turin (2006) and London (2012) all have several venues still in use, but the last three United States cities to host the games have become models for what to do when it comes to planning venue use.

Los Angeles, California – The Games of the XXIII Olympiad

The previous decade and a half of Olympics had been marred by incidents dating back to the 1968 games in Mexico City. Since the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow due to the then-Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Summer Olympics marked the first time in eight years that a United States team competed in the summer Olympic Games and the first time that the government did not sponsor the event as it had in previous games held in the U.S.

Los Angeles hosting the games was considered risky, and the only other city that competed for the bid was New York. Through donations, corporate sponsorships and selling broadcasting rights, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee approached the games from a budget-conscious standpoint. Led by businessman Peter Ueberroth, the committee chose to renovate and upgrade existing sporting venues and build only two new facilities. This strategy also worked in LA’s favor since they only had five years to plan versus the seven years host cities get now.

According to the International Olympic Committee, 6,829 athletes from 140 countries competed in 221 events from July 28 through August 12. Facilities in cities across Southern California, including Anaheim, Malibu, Rancho Santa Fe, Chino, Ventura County, Santa Monica, Pasadena and Fullerton, held events with consistent branding, spearheaded by Sussman/Prejza and The Jerde Partnership, that used LA Graphic artist Robert Miles Runyan’s “Stars in Motion” logo to bring them all together. University of California, Los Angeles' (UCLA) Pauley Pavilion hosted gymnastics, The Forum held basketball and the football finals were played at the Rose Bowl. Volleyball, fencing and sailing were all in Long Beach at various facilities, and cycling was on the Artesia Freeway. College and university dormitories across the area were renovated to house the athletes.

Built in 1923, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (the Coliseum), where the opening ceremony and track and field events were held, were upgraded and renovated. According to the Coliseum’s official website, the day before the opening ceremony in 1984, the Coliseum was declared a State and Federal Historical Landmark by the State of California and the United States Government “for its contribution to the history of California.”

Currently, the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans football team calls the Coliseum home and will start a $270 million planned renovation beginning after the 2017 USC football season with completion scheduled before the 2019 season, though the 2018 season is expected to proceed at the Coliseum without interruption. According to the USC website devoted to the renovations, coliseumrenovation.com, the renovations, funded entirely by USC Athletics, will include replacing seats, installing handrails, increasing legroom and restoring the look of the stadium to more closely resemble its original design.

The Olympic Swim Stadium and the Olympic Velodrome, the only new facilities constructed for the games, were both heavily financed by corporate sponsors, most notably 7-Eleven and McDonald’s. The Olympic Swim Stadium, renamed after the games as the McDonald’s Olympic Swim Stadium, opened in 1983 and hosted swimming, diving and synchronized swimming competitions. More than 300,000 spectators visited the $3 million venue during the games. Extensively renovated in 2014, the center currently operates as the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, named for the USC alumnus who donated $8 million for the renovation. It is managed by and a part of USC’s Los Angeles campus and continues to host national competitions as well as USC events. The Olympic Velodrome was constructed in Carson at California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1982 and held the track cycling events for the games. After serving as a training facility and special events venue for 22 years, it was closed in 2003 and replaced by the StubHub Center, a multi-facility center and the current home of the LA Galaxy.

“I think Los Angelinos were pleased about how the games came off,” said Larry Muller, managing director for HFF Securities, who was living in Los Angeles at the time of the games. “Peter Ueberroth did a masterful job of putting everything together, under budget and making money, as I recall. He was named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1984. He then succeeded Bowie Kuhn to become MLB’s sixth Commissioner of Baseball. So, I think people thought the games were a home run.”

The 1984 Olympics became the most successful Olympics since the last time LA hosted.  The biggest lasting impact from the Los Angeles Games is how the city spent their negotiated 40 percent of the $232.5 million in profits, which amounted to $93 million for the area. The committee created the LA84 Foundation, known as the “legacy of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.” For more information on how the revenue from the Olympics was spent and how it is still helping Southern California youth today, read the Los Angeles Times article.

Los Angeles is on the short list for hosting the Summer Games in 2024. If it wins the bid, it will be the second city in the history of the modern Olympic Games to host three times and the first city to use a venue a third time.

“If Los Angeles wins the Olympic bid for the 2024 games, I would expect it to be an overall positive thing for Los Angeles and Orange County commercial real estate,” said Paul Brindley, HFF senior managing director and co-head of HFF’s Los Angeles office. “It would understandably boost tourism, and the hospitality and retail sectors would see gains. LA hosting the 2024 games would be on top of the 2021 Super Bowl and the 2023 U.S. Open, which, is a nice string of sporting events that also will provide a temporary boost to the same industries.”

This is the first in a three-part blog series looking back at the venues of three past U.S. Olympic cities: Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

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