Thursday, November 12, 2015

Will the LA Memorial Coliseum Be Ready for a Big Earthquake By the 2024 Olympics?

By Bianca Barragan

USC is planning an extensive $270-million makeover for the 1923 Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that'll include fancy new suites and the restoration of some of the venue's more recognizable historical features, but whether or not it includes enough updates to ensure the structure's seismic safety is kind of unclear. Earthquake safety will be especially important if Los Angeles wins the 2024 Olympics; plans are for the Coliseum to serve as the Olympic Stadium. The AP says that when the LA Olympic Committee was asked about the matter, they said that USC is going to deal with it. But the plan USC's presented so far doesn't really mention earthquake safety-related upgrades either.

Even though the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge earthquake was about 20 miles away from Exposition Park and the Coliseum, the shaking badly damaged the stadium, and Dr. Lucy Jones, LA's former earthquake czar, told the AP, "any building that was damaged in '94 in downtown LA is a building that has problems." There are also many faults closer to the stadium, and a 'quake along one of them is expected to be much more devastating. Research from the Southern California Earthquake Center says that the Downtown area, including the Coliseum, "faces additional risk because the surface of the earth is composed of a thick layer of sediment, sand and dirt that can amplify shaking during a temblor."

USC has previously said that the repairs after Northridge cost $93 million. But those mostly addressed "stabilization of 'major structural damage,'" according to a 2006 report on the stadium's overall condition; there were still millions more in repairs left to be done. A follow-up report in 2011 suggested more earthquake upgrades, plus general safety features like new fire alarms. USC's vice president of capital construction told the AP in a statement that "key work required at the coliseum is 'substantially less'" than the 2011 study says is needed, but didn't really elaborate on what was going to be done to get the structure ready for a solid temblor.
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