KTTV 70: The L.A. Memorial Coliseum’s unparalleled history

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has arguably seen more historic moments than any other venue in Los Angeles' history.

It’s played host to multiple Olympic games, Super Bowls, the World Series, Presidents, the Pope, rock legends, and virtually every L.A. sports team.

The Coliseum’s director of events and customer service, Kevin Daly, put it this way: “This is where history is made, it happened here!”

It was built in the 1920’s as a memorial to veterans of World War I, known then as the “Great War.”

In 1923, USC hosted the first college football game in stadium history, when they defeated Pomona 23 to 7.

In 1926, the Trojans hosted the Fighting Irish from Notre Dame, which began one of the game’s great rivalries.


In 1932, 39 nations made their way to the Coliseum’s track for the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.

In 1984, the Olympic torch would burn once again in a much larger version of the game.

Thanks, in part to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Coliseum will host the first part of the Opening Ceremonies in the 2028 Olympic Games. It’ll be the first stadium to ever host 3 Olympic games.

“L.A. doesn’t just mark history. We make history,” Garcetti told Elex Michaelson in an interview with FOX 11 News.

Garcetti attended the 1984 Closing Ceremonies as a 13 year old boy. His daughter will be a teenager during the 2028 games.

“It’s like a pinch me feeling. I couldn’t believe it as a 13 year old that I was even here,” Garcetti said.  

“After I’m mayor, to be able to bring my daughter here when she’s 16 or 17, it will be the most phenomenal feeling of my life!”


In 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to address the Coliseum as he mourned the late Will Rodgers.

But, he wouldn’t be the last.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic National Committee presidential nomination at the Coliseum. It was the largest crowd to ever witness a political speech in America.

Bob Shrum was in the crowd.

“That’s where Kennedy first started the phrase New Frontier. There was a sense of change & promise in the air,” Shrum said.

At the time, Shrum was a 16 year old intern that escorted powerful people to the candidate’s suite. He met JFK and said he had a larger than life presence.

He’d go on to a five decade long career in politics, helping to run multiple presidential campaigns. But, he’d never forget 1960.

“Inspired not just me, but an entire generation of people to be active, to care, to be involved,” Shrum said.

President Ronald Reagan would help to open the 1984 Olympic Games inside the stadium.

Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the crowd in 1964.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela spoke to a sold out crowd.


The biggest crowd in the history of the Coliseum was for the Rev. Billy Graham. He drew 134,000 for his crusade.

Another unforgettable moment was when Pope John Paul II hosted mass inside the stadium for assembled Angelenos in 1987.


The Coliseum is perhaps best known for hosting sporting events.

It hosted the 1959 World Series when the Dodgers were the home team.

Then Supervisor Kenneth Hahn helped recruit the Boys in Blue to L.A., according to his daughter…now Supervisor Janice Hahn.

“When they first came to Los Angeles, they didn’t have any place to play and my dad took the baseball coach at Pepperdine and they went down there and measured the field and they found out that baseball could be played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum,” Hahn said.

Like her father, Janice Hahn now leads the L.A. Memorial Coliseum commission.

The Coliseum hosted the first ever Super Bowl in 1967…with the Green Bay Packers beating the Kansas City Chiefs 35 to 10.

It’s been the home field for several of L.A.’s pro and college football teams.  

The Rams called the Coliseum homes from 1946 to 1979 and 2016 to present.

The Raiders…from 1928 to 1994.

Even the Chargers played the 1960 season there.

UCLA football played its games there from 1933 to 1981.

But the original tenant, USC football, remains to this day. USC is now in charge of the stadium.

“When you walk out, the hair on the back of your neck stands up, because you understand how much history is here,” said USC head football coach Clay Helton.

The school recently completed a $321 million renovation, in time for the new season.

It includes new luxury boxes, a rooftop lounge area, concession stands, improved TV screens, and WiFi. Every seat in the stadium was replaced.

Events director Kevin Daly said the modern technology makes them prepared for the next era. “96 year history and we’re poised for another century of amazing events!”