Once known as “The Greatest Stadium in the World,” the Los Angeles Coliseum has played host to some of the most important moments in modern athletic history since it was first completed in 1923. As the host of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics, the Coliseum became a National Historic Landmark while the 1984 Olympic games were being held.
Every generation that has taken its hand at renovating the 18-acre Los Angeles Coliseum has been met with the same monumental challenge: to update every one of its essential features with a successful collaboration between architects, building engineers, and sound engineers. The recent renovation of the 96-year-old building, completed this year to the tune of $315 million, is the most comprehensive yet. The greatest challenge for DLR Group, the design firm hired to oversee the project, was to position a new seven-story tower within the iconic bowl structure while respecting strict historic preservation guidelines.
The new building, named the Scholarship Tower, modernizes the Coliseum with features that have its VIP guests in mind, including an entire level of luxury suites, a year-round club lounge, and an expansive rooftop deck with unobstructed views. The insertion of the Scholarship Tower into the cast-in-place concrete structure required the study of a detailed computer model, which allowed the team to develop a unique brace system for each of the tower’s seven floors. In the event of an earthquake, the Tower would sway independently of the concrete structure which surrounds it.
The viewing experience in the other parts of the Coliseum was improved as well: every seat within the bowl has been replaced with one that’s two inches wider. Though this alteration and the inclusion of the Scholarship Tower reduced the number of outdoor seats from 93,000 to 78,000, the result will make the viewing experience significantly more comfortable during the Coliseum’s year-round events. In addition, every seat now has unobstructed access to a Wi-Fi hotspot, thanks to an elaborate network of wires and over 700 access points discreetly installed within the concrete underfoot. Given how unreliable wireless services can be in large crowds, the team found the labor involved in the construction of this network a necessity.
With only very few of the original construction documents still intact, the task ahead of DLR Group was an uphill battle from the very beginning. Don Barnum, DLR Group principal and lead of the firm’s Sports Studio, said that when dealing with any historic preservation project, “a lot of things come into what makes it a historic landmark and it is not just a view. We have to maintain that integrity.” The task, no doubt, was all the more challenging when applied to the Coliseum, a building as large as a small neighborhood. When the Coliseum becomes the host of the 2028 Summer Olympics, its renovation will be strongly felt by its visitors while being nearly imperceptible to all those viewing the games from around the world.