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United Airlines Gets L.A. Coliseum Naming Rights In College Football's Richest Deal

United Airlines Gets L.A. Coliseum Naming Rights In College Football's Richest Deal

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Revenue from the naming-rights deal is expected to offset renovation costs
United Airlines is buying the naming rights to venerable L.A. Memorial Coliseum for just more than $70M over 15 years, according to sources, making it the richest naming-rights deal among college football stadiums. At $4.7M per year, United’s deal will surpass the 10-year, $41M deal Alaska Airlines signed with the Univ. of Washington for Husky Stadium naming rights in ‘15. Fox Sports, through its partnership with USC, has been attempting to sell naming rights to one of the nation’s most recognizable venues since ‘15. The revenue from a naming-rights deal is expected to help offset costs of the $270M renovation to the Coliseum, school officials have said. The renovation, which is in the early stages and includes reducing capacity to 77,500 among added luxury boxes, is supposed to be completed in time for the ‘19 football season. How United’s brand name will be attached is not clear, but school and Fox officials in the past have said “Memorial Coliseum” would be retained in the name. Sources indicated that the contract has not yet been signed, but an agreement is in place. While Fox takes the lead on the sale, USC and Fox have been working in tandem to identify corporate candidates for a naming-rights deal. One of the reasons United emerged is because the airline’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, is a graduate of the USC business school. L.A. Int’l Airport is one of United’s U.S. hubs (Smith & Ourand, Staff Writers). In L.A., Joey Kaufman noted Washington's deal with Alaska Airlines and the deal Cal signed in '13 with Kabam were for naming rights to the playing field and neither stadium name "was overhauled." USC COO of Athletics Steve Lopes earlier this month indicated that the focus was on "naming the field at the Coliseum, suggesting a step similar to their conference counterparts." USC has "managed the Coliseum" since '13 after it "obtained day-to-day control through an amended lease with the Coliseum Commission" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/19).

JUST PLANE WRONG? In L.A., Zach Helfand notes the United deal "could rankle some traditionalists." The airline recently "took a public-relations hit, after a video emerged showing a passenger being forcefully dragged off a United flight" (L.A. TIMES, 5/19). USA TODAY's Andrew Joseph noted the deal is a "ton of money to pay for a stadium that everyone will call 'The Coliseum' regardless." The past couple months have "not been the best for United Airlines considering the PR fiasco that ensued" with the passenger who was removed from the plane. With that in mind, Twitter "had itself a field day with jokes about the new stadium name" (USATODAY.com, 5/18).

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