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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Memorial Coliseum

We took the kids to the Shriners Circus at the Portland Memorial Coliseum today. Typical small circus, with elephant poop getting the biggest laugh of the day, but it was a big hit for our girls, who had never attended one before. Tigers, elephants, stunt riders on horseback, highwire thrills, cotton candy -- who can forget their first circus? Or their kids'?

The occasion also marked my first visit to the Coliseum in quite a while. I've been reading about how the city has given up on the building in its current configuration, and now wants to gut it and stuff it with something else.

After thinking about that for a while there today, I think it's a bad move.

For an 11,500-seat arena, you still can't beat this one. It needs a few cosmetics, but the seats are still in great shape, the design of the hall is still immaculate, and it's a wonderful venue for events of certain sizes.

Granted, there are drawbacks: the hideous acoustics; the arena's awkward placement next to the newer, 20,000-seat Rose Garden; and the city's operations contract with the bankrupt Oregon Arena Corp., owner of the Rose Garden, which has every incentive to run the Coliseum into the ground.

If it's time to rip the place apart, it's because of those factors. But don't let the developers and their City Hall chums tell you the building's in bad shape physically. It's not.

Among the more positive aspects of the place are all the memories for longtime Portlanders, particularly of the Blazers in their heyday, and in their not-so-illustrious '80s. There were countless great moments on the basketball floor there. We also had the legendary Mayor's Balls under the leadership -- cultural, political and otherwise -- of Bud Clark. And one great concert after another, despite the lousy acoustics.

The record of the bankrupt beast next door -- just another luxury-box ugly duckling, way out of place in an egalitarian city -- is not even a shadow of that.

The Rose Quarter was a bad concept, and it's been fairly poorly executed. Rather than gut and stuff the Coliseum, I suggest demolishing the Rose Garden, building a baseball stadium on the other side of Broadway, throwing a few million dollars at a new coat of paint and some acoustical work for the Coliseum, and either moving the Blazers back in there or chasing them out of town.

O.k., not really. But paying the usual West Hills contractor suspects tens of millions of scarce taxpayer dollars to turn the place into a Home Depot or some sort of ill-defined, publicly financed MAC Club for the Pearlies seems an equally stupid idea.

Comments (5)

Tearing it down= expensive.

Let someone else use it for free for a certain period of time, but still get the taxes out of it and a tiny portion of the revenue= better deal.

This City Council's ability to put the property on the tax rolls and have it generate net revenue to the city = nil.

I remember Portland Buckaroo hockey games there when the James Bond movies were brand new. Also a Grand Funk Railroad rock concert, circa '74. Lots of memories.

First off, cosmetically it may look like that all the old glass palace needs is some paint and better acoustics. However, if you dig a little deeper you'd find an antiquated inefficient HVAC system, failing electrical system and of course horrible acoustics. To fix the acoustics alone I imagine would be very expensive. And, unless a private party bought the place, we still would not have it on the tax rolls.

Though I know Jack's got a jaded view of the Blazers, I doubt they are going anywhere anytime soon. So the Rose Garden is here to stay.

And I have loads and loads of memories from the Memorial Coliseum because I practically grew up there (due to my father's involvement in the Portland/Oregon sports scene). I too saw the Shriner's Cicus when I was little kid. I also had the thrill as a little kid of seeing Steve Prefontaine fly around the indoor track at the Portland Indoor Track Meet. I saw many a high school championship basketball game including Charlie Sitton's win with McMinnville and AC Green's win for Benson High. I used to attend the Far West Classic college holiday b-ball tournament where I got to see Magic Johnson play for Michigan State. And worked at the Al Giusti woman's college torunament where I saw my first dunk by a woman (it was a player from USC whose name I can't remember). In it's latter years of use by the Blazers I was there to see the officials completely rob us of a championship over Detroit. And in 1992 because I was working at the event and got in much earlier than the crowd, I watched Magic, Bird, Jordan, Barkley and Drexler play a game of HORSE before their opening game in the Torunament of Americas olympic qualifying tournament.

All that said, it is an old, tired arena. I personally think a convention-size hotel would be the best use of the property with its location only blocks from the convention center and right on the light rail line and also right off of the Eastside Esplanade. I think it would be important to maintain the memorial to the veterans of Oregon, but tat could be incorporated int a hotel that could be privately owned, income producing, job supplying and a great addition to the property tax rolls.

just my 2 cents

Everybody seems to agree that we need a new courthouse. How about we put a few courtrooms in the Coliseum? Plenty of parking. If not there, I suppose we could build the courtrooms around the upper tier of the new baseball stadium, instead of those exclusive boxes. During slow trials, who wouldn't want to watch the arc of a Guerrero home run? Oops, he isn't an Expo any more.


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The corporation that owns the Rose Garden, Portland's home-away-from-the-probation-office for the Trail Blazer basketball team, has filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and reputed to be the 5th-richest person in ... [Read More]

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