USC and Los Angeles say a final farewell to the Sports Arena

Official closing ceremony is held for the facility, once home to the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and 47 years of Trojan basketball

May 12, 2016 David Medzerian

Flags lowering
The city and county flags are lowered at Thursday’s closing ceremony for the Sports Arena. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

USC joined in saying a fond farewell Thursday to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, the venerated venue that has hosted countless games, concerts and special events, including 47 seasons of USC basketball.

“We gather here today to say goodbye to this venerable facility,” county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said during Thursday’s ceremony in front of the arena, which will be replaced by a soccer stadium. “It’s only fitting that we give it an appropriate sendoff.”

Dedicated in 1959 by then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon, the Sports Arena has been home to the Lakers, Clippers, Trojans and Bruins basketball teams as well as hockey’s Kings.

LA Memorial sports arena in 1961
The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena is seen in 1961. (Photo/Courtesy of USC Libraries)

It hosted Olympic boxing, the NCAA men’s and women’s Final Four and the NBA All-Star Game. It’s been the site of WrestleMania, American Gladiators and lingerie football. And it became a favorite concert venue, hosting multiday stands by Pink Floyd, U2, Michael Jackson, Madonna and the Grateful Dead.

Bruce Springsteen’s March concerts were the last public events in the hall that the Boss calls “the dump that jumps.”

Historic moment

Perhaps its most historic moment, former Los Angeles City Council member Tom LaBonge noted, was as the site of the 1960 Democratic National Convention that nominated John F. Kennedy for president.

“The history is here. That is great. But transformation is also great,” LaBonge said.

The arena will be replaced with a 22,000-seat, state-of-the-art soccer stadium to be built by the new Los Angeles Football Club. The soccer facility is expected to bring jobs and economic growth southward along Figueroa Boulevard.

Dedicated to veterans

The Sports Arena, like the adjacent Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, is dedicated to veterans, so it was fitting that Thursday’s ceremony concluded with an honor guard lowering the city, county, state and U.S. flags and presenting them to officials in attendance.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Los Angeles City Council member Curren Price Jr. “Lots of memories are going to be torn down. But we’re looking forward to creating some new memories.”

Though closed, the Sports Arena will still have at least one more day in the sun: As the closing ceremony was taking place in front of the arena, inside movie crews were working on a feature film set in the early 1970s. Dozens of extras milled about dressed in crazy clothes reminiscent of the Sports Arena’s heyday.

Dignitaries at Sports Arena closing ceremony
Officials and dignitaries hold flags as the Sports Arena closing ceremony comes to an end Thursday. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)