A follow up from an earlier blog post:
How does Hollywood Park rank in the Top 50 of all the most important sports venues in Southern California history?
Consider this the top 10:
1. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: Aside from some unpopular opinion, the place has managed to stay classic, and classy, as the center piece to two Summer Olympics (1932, ’84), the first Super Bowl (’67), the Dodgers’ 1959 World Series and the home of USC football since its opening in 1923 (and UCLA’s home from ’28-to’81). It is also gave shelter to the first major pro sports franchise in L.A. when the NFL’s Rams moved here from Cleveland, and also held three NFL championships. The Raiders came crawling here as well before eventually they, and the Rams, decided to leave when they couldn’t get their way. International soccer matches, X Games, XFL games, Super Cross events and even an Evel Knievel jump are included in its legacy. The flame keeps on burning over remodeling modifications, historical landmark designations and, at last, USC stepping in as the caretaker. Over the next 10 years, there will be more improvements that keep it in this top spot.
2. Dodger Stadium: The place Walter O’Malley put into the side of a towndown hillside doesn’t look a day over 52, with more upgrades coming. And give Frank McCourt some credit for going back to the retro-color original seats a few years back. The venue may want to stretch its boundaries by hosting soccer, moto-cross and an outdoor hockey game next month, but it simply doesn’t have to resort to such gimmickry.
3. Rose Bowl: Built simultaneously as the Coliseum was going up in downtown L.A., the Pasadena icon not only is the place many traditionally prefer to welcome the new year since 1923, but it has become more accommodating to four BCS title games (including the final one next month), five Super Bowls and FIFA World Cup title matches for men (’94) and women (’99). Pssst: it also had the 1983 Army-Navy football game, as well staging track cycling in the ’32 Olympics. Just be quiet about it. The neighbors are getting cranky.
4. Pauley Pavilion: The House That Wooden Built opened for UCLA’s ’65-66 basketball season, was remodeled for the ’12-13 season, and should remain a landmark as long as banners keep hanging from the rafters. Plus, it was the perfect place for Mary Lou Retton to show what perfection looked like during the ’84 Olympic gymnastics.
5. The Forum: The place Jack Nicholson referred to as “The Giant Ashtray” in Hollywood Park-adjacent was Jack Kent Cooke’s palace for his Lakers and Kings starting in 1967. The a state-of-the art “Showtime” throwback to Roman decadence eventually was the first to figure out how to work the commercial naming rights game. It’s making a comeback as a concert venue. How about another indoor rodeo someday?
6. Staples Center: The downtown L.A. super-sized facility on Figueroa for the Lakers, Clippers and Kings since 1999 has established itself as the place where tables are turned over faster than a five-star restaurant to accommodate as many as four events in a 48-hour period. Even with all those statues outside of guys who never played there, it has seen seven NBA finals, a Stanley Cup pass-around, world figure skating and championship tennis, X Games, UFC, boxing . . . and Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game. And all other kinds of Grammy glitz to add to its crossover appeal.
7. Santa Anita Park: Arcadia’s art deco monument often referred to as the world’s most beautiful race track with the San Gabriel Mountains as the backdrop. No lies. Since its opening on Christmas, 1934, it has survived attempts to close it up to expand local retail outlets. Thankfully, it survived, has hosted seven Breeders’ Cups. You can still visit Seabiscuit’s original stall and barn. And it remains one of the last major sporting facilities in the country without lights.
8. Grand Olympic Auditorium: When used for boxing, wrestling and weightlifting at the 1932 Olympics, it was the largest indoor arena in the country of its kind with 15,300 seats. Too bad roller derby and pro wrestling events weren’t Olympic disciplines then, too. The place where the 1976 Oscar-winning movie “Rocky” was filmed was finally sold off to a Korean Christian church. Too late to put up a fight and reclaim it?
9. Riviera Country Club: The Palisades park known as “Hogan’s Alley” has held three major golf events, including the ’48 U.S. Open, as well as standing firm for the PGA’s L.A. stop. A private club, but a public jewel, it even had some ’32 Olympic equestrian events on its facilities. Hence, the kikuyu outbreak. The fact Tiger Woods doesn’t care to come back doesn’t hurt the place at all.
10. Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena: The first home of the Lakers (’60-’67), the Kings (’67), Clippers (’84-’99) also had USC and UCLA basketball, the ’68 and ’72 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, major indoor track events (Sunkist Invitational from ’60 to ’04), and top-notch boxing during the ’84 Olympics. Could it be next to go? Current owners USC are looking into tearing it down and replacing it with a “soccer-specific” stadium for an MLS team. Go for it.
Next: Numbers 11-25 …