Exposition Park has for 100 years been a destination point for millions of Angelenos and visitors to Los Angeles. Whether you’re a sports fan, music fan, history bug, sci-fi enthusiast or even a naturalist, Exposition Park likely offers something of interest to all visitors.
The popular attractions at Exposition Park include the California African American Museum, California Science Center, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, Exposition Park Rose Garden, EXPO Center, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Science Center School and Amgen Center for Science Learning, and Jesse A. Brewer Jr. Park. Exposition Park is continuing a renovation plan begun in the mid-1990s to rival Central Park in New York City, Grand Park in Chicago and, to an extent, Griffith Park locally.
Samuel Oschin Pavilion
Construction is continuing at the new Samuel Oschin Pavilion which in 2018 will permanently house the Space Shuttle Endeavour in its vertical launch position. The shuttle exhibit is open to the public at the California Science Center. The Endeavour has made the longest commuter trip in the history of Los Angeles County—about 123 million miles—from its birthplace in Downey, to assembly and landings at Edwards Air Force Base in Palmdale, and culminating at Exposition Park. In between, of course, it flew 25 missions at roughly 250 miles above the Earth. Visitors begin their tour in “Endeavor: The California Story” which is a companion exhibit featuring images and artifacts that relate to the shuttle program in Southern California where the orbiters were designed and built.
California African American Museum
Upcoming art exhibitions include “Curatorial Selections” through Sept. 7, and “Curvative: Lines and Shapes” on display through Nov. 2. “Visibly Invisible” will open on Aug. 29, and “Lookin’ Back in Front of Me: Selected Works of Mark Steven Greenfield” will open for display on Sept. 25. Designed by African American architects Jack Haywood and the late Vince Proby, the museum has operated for 28 years under a charter by the State of California. Encompassing 44,000 square feet, the museum includes three full-size exhibition galleries, a theater gallery, a 14,000-square-foot glass ceiling courtyard, a conference center/multi-purpose room and a research library.
Jesse A. Brewer Jr. Park
Once serving as a parking lot primarily for football fans, Jesse A. Brewer Jr. Park is a tribute to one of the highest raking African Americans in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department. The four-acre park offers barbecue pits, picnic areas, a picturesque white gazebo and an array of children’s playground equipment. Brewer served 39 years with the LAPD and retired as assistant chief. He died in 1995.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum has always been a favorite stop for visitors. The museum completed one year ago a $135 million redesign which more than doubled its exhibition space, including the Mammals Hall which opened in 2010 and the compelling Dinosaur Hall in 2011. The new entrance is six stories high and features a hanging skeleton of a 63-foot fin whale silhouetted by 33,000 LED lights. Outside, a 3.5-acre “urban wilderness,” designed by Mia Lehrer & Architects, replaced a concrete parking lot. Today there are some 31,000 plantings and a 27,000-gallon pond to lure in dragon flies, hummingbirds, butterflies, etc. The new Dinosaur Hall is one of the finest exhibits on the West Coast. In addition to “Thomas the T-Rex,” the newly renovated hall features more than 300 real fossils and 20 complete skeletons of dinosaurs and sea creatures. The 68-foot Mamenchisaurus (a plant-eating sauropod from the late Jurassic period) is longer than a city bus. The hall also offers multi-media stations where visitors can “excavate” specimens and watch never-before-seen footage of a dinosaur-hunting expedition.
The life-sized dioramas, mounted in the 1920s and ’30s, remain a popular attraction. The original 1913 Beaux-Arts rotunda still makes a promise of antiquity and grandeur as you stroll through the facility. The free “Summer Nights in the Garden” series continues through the end of August, and there are a host of “citizen science” activities and daily tours both inside and outside the museum. Native California plant workshops will debut in September, and the seasonal Spider Pavilion will welcome visitors from Sept. 21 through Nov. 2. “Becoming LA” is a permanent, 14,000-square-foot exhibition chronicling the growth of the city from a small Spanish village to one of the world’s most famous metropolises.
The Rose Garden is a favorite among Angelenos for weddings, photographs, family gatherings or just an afternoon spent enjoying the fragrant, multi- colored scenery. Managed by the EXPO Center, the Rose Garden offers a classic formal display of beds of roses arranged in a grass-girded oval around a central fountain. Still photographers, as well as directors of motion pictures and commercials, frequently use the Rose Garden as a backdrop for location shoots.
Despite the prolonged drought, the foliage there is in remarkably vibrant condition. The seven-acre Rose Garden opened in 1914 with nothing more than California wildflowers; the roses were planted in 1927, and the four marble statues by Danish sculptor Thyra Boldsen were added in 1936. There were plans in 1986 to replace it with underground parking; Al Davis that year wanted to build a practice field for his Los Angeles Raiders. In 1991 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
California Science Center
The California Science Center in 1998 replaced, for all intents and purposes, the old Museum of Science and Industry which was once the Exposition Park Armory (160th Regiment State Armory). The Science Center spans more than 400,000 square feet and includes major exhibit areas such as “World of Life” (probing the commonalties of the living world), “Creative World” (examining the ways people employ technology including transportation, communication and architecture) and “Ecosystems” which features more than 400 species of live plants and animals. There’s also a 188,000-gallon aquarium filled with kelp, fish and other marine life. You can even see a reenactment of a desert flash flood. Among the biggest attractions this year has been “Pompeii The Exhibition,” a look back at the aftermath of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD, and on display through Jan. 4, 2015.
The EXPO Center occupies the famous Los Angeles Swimming Stadium, built with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the 1932 Olympic Games. The 50-meter pool is open regularly, as is a the smaller recreation pool. Recent additions include a recreation center with two gyms, a fitness center, a teen center, a state-of-the-art sports field, a child care center, a senior citizen center and an outdoor amphitheater. The center provides a number of programs which were put into place years ago to serve impoverished youth in South Los Angeles.
The IMAX Theater presents that rare opportunity to see a movie on the largest film frame in the motion picture industry. It is 10 times larger than Hollywood’s standard 35mm film format and three times bigger than the standard 70mm frame. The IMAX film reel is so large that one 40-minute film is approximately three miles long. IMAX movie screens, seven stories high and 90 feet wide, are painted by a robot to ensure an even coating of highly reflective paint. Thousands of tiny holes spaced evenly around the screen permit the six-channel digital stereo sound to be transmitted directly to each seat thanks to a network of 44 speakers and 12,000 watts of sound. Past films have included “Forces of Nature,” “Madagascar” and “Hubble 3D.” For reservations, call (213) 744-2019.
Coliseum and Sports Arena
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum opened in 1923 and is widely considered to be the world’s most famous sports venue. As host of two Olympiads (1932 and 1984), the Coliseum has been home to the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Raiders, Los Angeles Express, USC and UCLA football, international soccer competitions, site of the first Super Bowl (1965 and again in 1972) and the World Series in 1959. The Coliseum and Swim Stadium were funded largely by Harry Chandler and family, former owners/publishers of the Los Angeles Times, in preparation for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. The peristyle end is flanked by stones from the Acropolis in ancient Greece and from the Coliseum of ancient Rome.
The big news today is that the University of Southern California may have more influence over the Coliseum and Sports Area than ever before. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission (LAMCC), a sometimes controversial panel among L.A. sports fans, in past years has battled the likes of Dan Reeves (Rams), Walter O’Malley (Dodgers), Barron Hilton (Chargers), Jack Kent Cooke (Lakers), Jim Kirst (Los Angeles Stars of the ABA), Carroll Rosenbloom (Rams), Al Davis (Raiders), Donald Sterling (Clippers) and the UCLA athletic department in terms of the legalities of use and various practicalities of replacement and/or remodeling of either the Coliseum or Sports Arena. All of these sports franchises departed Exposition Park with several team owners reportedly at odds with the LAMCC regarding any and all refurbishment of the two aging venues. For 20 years, many local sports fans have placed partial blame on the Coliseum Commission as a reason why Los Angeles does not have a professional football team.
“The University has the day-to-day management responsibility of the Coliseum and Sports Area until the year 2111,” said Ana Lasso, general manager of Exposition Park. “As stewards of these historic facilities, USC’s responsibility includes booking events, maintaining the grounds and completing capital improvements and necessary upgrades.”
According to a lease negotiated three years ago between USC and the Coliseum Commission, USC has the right to continue upgrades to the Coliseum and to “demolish” the Sports Arena and make any improvements “subject to the approval” of the LAMCC. In what is called a “nondisturbance agreement,” both the Coliseum and Sports Arena cannot continue to be operated on at least a “break even” basis. With regard to the Sports Arena, Lasso said that “a complete facility assessment is on-going and definitive plans have not been finalized.”
The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena was christened in 1959 by then Vice President Richard Nixon and was once home to the Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Stars, Los Angeles Sharks, USC and UCLA basketball. It has hosted numerous ice shows, circuses, rodeos, track and field meets and, most famously, the 1960 Democratic National Convention where Sen. John F. Kennedy accepted the nomination for president of the United States. It was revealed years later that Robert Kennedy wanted to host his brother’s acceptance speech at the Coliseum, but convention organizers doubted they could fill the stadium to capacity.