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Tours Now Available at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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If you're in Los Angeles long enough, you might get tired of seeing this sprawling city only through the car windshield, perched high upon a freeway overpass, whizzing by intriguing places on your way to somewhere else. Once you get off the freeway and out of your car to take a closer look at its inner folds and outer reaches, this hidden city rewards you with its riches. There are plenty of treasures to find.

Still, it takes a while to discover places worth exploring, and sometimes development or demolition obliterates those places before you ever get the chance to visit. Even if you already know where to find L.A.'s many landmarks, historic-cultural monuments, and offbeat attractions, many are strictly off-limits and cannot be visited.

Until about three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was officially closed to the public when it wasn't hosting a ticketed sporting or music event. In the past, you might have been able to sneak in through an unlocked gate and dodge security personnel, but now the historic Coliseum can be toured legally and legitimately, replete with a ticket and wristband.

You have two choices for the new historic tours: you can wander freely about the peristyle forecourt and gawk at the field for hours on a self-guided tour, or you can spring for a docent to take you on a guided tour. In the public areas, they'll point out sports legends in the Court of Honor, and enumerate all of the gold medals and championship trophies won by Olympic athletes and USC Trojans alike. Then, they will take you into several of the private, forbidden areas like the board room, press box, and locker rooms. They'll even take you up on the roof, where you'll get a breathtaking view of the USC campus, downtown L.A., and the San Gabriel Mountains.


So what's the big deal? If it's not enough for you that the Coliseum is the only venue in the world to host two Olympic Games (X and XXIII), two Super Bowls (I and VII), and a World Series (1959), just being able to see the structure up close in daylight makes it worth the excursion. Designed by the father and son architectural team of John and Donald Parkinson, the Coliseum is among their most recognizable L.A. landmarks, which also include City Hall, Union Station, and the Bullocks Wilshire Building. Ornamented with murals, terrazzo walls, rows of arches, and Streamline Moderne curves, it was conceived as an Art Deco version of a Roman colosseum, and retains an atmosphere of modern antiquity. With a jumbotron, of course.

Besides its architecture, perhaps you'll be drawn to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum by how much happened there over the past nine decades. Starting in 1923, it opened as a memorial to the fallen heroes of World War I, later rededicated as a memorial to all veterans. In the 92 years since, three major league sports teams -- the Dodgers, the (now St. Louis) Rams, and (now Oakland) Raiders -- called the Coliseum home. It's also been the USC Football team's home field since the beginning, creating a long line of USC graduates to be drafted into the pros.

And then there are the two Summer Olympic games: the first in 1932, and again in 1984, when it was declared a National Historic Landmark, and U.S. athletes like Greg Louganis, Steffi Graf, and Marylou Retton earned multiple Gold medals.

Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein

Advance tickets for the Los Angeles Coliseum Historic Tours are available to purchase for dates now through May 28 at Ticketmaster or at the door. Self-guided tours are $10 Adults / $5 Seniors and Military for an unrestricted amount of time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays only. Guided tours are $25 Adults / $20 Seniors/Military at either 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. weekdays and last about 90 minutes.

This is still a pilot program for the Coliseum, so representatives say they should be fully up and running by late April or early May. But if you go now, you'll beat the crowds, and maybe have a little more time to explore on your own.

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