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100 Years of the Coliseum: Built for Everything

By: Alex Tang

The L.A. Coliseum is now 100 years old.

In these 100 years, it has hosted football, soccer, and baseball games, rock concerts, auto races, community festivals, and a plethora of other events. And it has had to learn a few tricks when changing from standard turf to dirt, asphalt, ice, and even snow.

Since 1923, when the stadium opened, it has had to adapt its floor to the ever-increasing variety of shows being hosted.

In the summer of 1936, the stadium booked Olympic figure-skating champion Sonja Henie for a performance. Engineers laid coils and used ice-making machines to form an 80-foot long rink. However, the scorching summer heat defeated the refrigeration system, and the event was canceled.

In 1938, torrential rains delayed a planned ski-jumping competition. The competition was delayed to two days later, and the participants competed on a very slick track.

In the 1940s, a war rally took place at the stadium. Hollywood set designers were called in by the military to create a South Pacific island in the Coliseum. Later, rodeos were held, featuring some of the biggest stars of the time. In the 1950s, the Coliseum became the temporary home of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the 1970s, the Superbowl of Motocross took place in the Coliseum. Dump trucks entered the stadium and poured more than 6,000 cubic yards of clay and decomposed granite to build a 0.75 miles long course with jumps and turns around the stadium.

Scott Lupold is the grounds manager at the Coliseum. And every time the grass is smothered or torn up, he feels uneasy.

Promoters tried to protect the turf using a variety of layers, including wood shavings, plywood, and carpeting.

“We laid plastic down over the grass but it ripped in several places and the Coliseum drains were plugged with dirt,” a promoter told The Los Angeles Times in 1974. “You know what plumbers cost.”

However, none of these materials worked, and a new strategy was developed to keep the grass prepared for football and soccer sporting events.Instead of trying to revive the old grass every time after a concert or race, old grass would be completely replaced with newly laid turf. With this technique, the stadium could be ready for a new game within the matter of days.

This new technique also allowed NASCAR engineers to build a whole racetrack last winter.

Fortunately, the NASCAR race took place after football season. Seven months later, there were only a few days to prepare for back-to-back shows by the industrial metal band Rammstein and for a USC game against Arizona State.

Concerts are more than meets the eye of the spectator. Trucks drive in and unload workers who assemble, prepare, and then take apart the stage.

After the Rammstein concert, during the game, Lupold was anxious until a few minutes in about the turf. Luckily, everything went as planned.

“If you go back and look at those highlights … you wouldn’t be able to tell,” he said. But, he added, “You’re going to worry about it as a groundskeeper.”


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