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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Maybe nobody comes 'cause it stinks

While Metro gets ready to push the area's taxpayers head first into the fiscal cesspool that is a headquarters hotel, coincidentally I had a speaking engagement at the Oregon Convention Center last evening. The place was a ghost town, as usual. Aside from the small group that I was addressing, there appeared to be only one event in the whole place -- some sort of manufactured event surrounding which high school athletes had "signed up" with one of the state universities in these parts. Not exactly a big show.

My evening made clear to me that the convention center's problems go well beyond the lack of a hotel across the street. In chronological order, here's what I found:

1. Six bucks to park in the garage, which was 99 percent empty. O.k., that was no surprise, but not a happy thing. With the vicious parking meter situation in that part of town, leaving the car on the street is no longer an option.

2. Ten minutes before my session was scheduled to start, the meeting room was still locked, and my crowd was sitting on the floor outside. The sponsor had to go flag down a security guard to open the room. This is a sponsor who's been in that facility every weeknight since the first of the year, and they still have to fight to get the doors open for their regular meeting.

3. At the speaker's podium, I found a mike that wouldn't reach high enough to be of much use if you were taller than five feet; it was on a stand that was too short to get the mike up to where it belonged. And there was an unspeakably cheesy podium light that (a) wasn't plugged in, (b) when plugged in, worked only if you jiggled both of the tacky little bulbs in it, (c) didn't light the place where a speaker would put his or her notes anyway, and (d) suddenly quit working when the power cord was moved out from under my feet. By far the worst podium light I have encountered in more than 20 years of public speaking. You could do better at the Dollar Store.

4. The room in which we sat had no ventilation -- it got progressively more oppressive as the four-hour session wore on. No windows, of course -- just awful, blank, institutional walls. By the end of the night, people were fanning themselves with their notes, and no doubt cursing their fates.

5. On the way out, the portal through which I had entered the parking garage was sealed off with locked gates, and there were exactly zero signs giving exiting cars a clue as to where they could find a way out.

6. Finally, I found an unlocked gate downstairs and got out of the place, but not before encountering a ticket machine that wouldn't read my parking ticket. I had to run the ticket through it three times to get it to work.

All this hassle is quite consistent with a few of my previous experiences at this facility. The building's not well built, and the service is second-rate. Even if we need a publicly owned hotel over there, let's implode the infernal convention center and put a nice park in its place.

Comments (12)

Take a look at the other stench and get a quote to use a section for an event.
There's not a thing you can bring in yourself. Every imaginablde item, including extension cords has a price.
Every service must be rented not provided by the organization or volunteers. From food service to table set up, you name it, they pile on more cost at high prevailing wage.
It's no wonder Metro and other officials use it themselves so often. They either don't pay, get a break and availablity is wide open.

I was part of the "crowd" last night and second pretty much every one of those issues. (The only aberration last night was that the door was locked -- I haven't seen that happen before.) The room temperature in particular is hit or miss. One day we had a full day event in there and I had to strip down to a t-shirt to make it through. The next day I dressed light, and it was a meat locker.

In addition, the fact that there was another event there last night is a first for a non-Friday weeknight (we've been going there for about 6 weeks now). Compared to a normal night, the place seemed packed.

Thanks for being such an engaging speaker. It was nice to have some chuckles -- usually it's duller than watching paint dry.

let's implode the infernal convention center and put a nice park in its place.

You got it, you got it.

the answer to these problems is simple.

Obviously we need to build street car and tram access to the convention center

You guys have a lack of vision.

What that area needs is a urban renewal zone, 'affordable' housing, mixed use office complexes, a vegan grocery store that reflects the 'Portland way of life,' two new streetcar lines, another MAX stop between the two existing ones, some public art to give it a sense of 'place.' We should also tear out the I-5 freeway and replace it with a park, turn MLK and Grand into 2 way streets, and narrow them down into one lane in each direction to encourage window shopping.

Then you ignorant people will be enlightened.


You really ought to run for Metro.

You'd blend!

I get a kick out of hearing Len Bernstein, the huckster for the Convention Center Hotel, spinning that the hotel subsidy is only for the land cost-"we just want the land to be free at the taxpayer's expense". Then he is questioned what that land value might be-"I have no idea". Len, you have no idea? I believe someone of your caliber and lobbying position for the hotel would know.

If the taxpayer's funding in only the land cost (which isn't true per proposal published), it is absurb not to consider the $400M plus paid for by the taxpayers for the Convention Center (not including the financing costs) across the street from the hotel as not a subsidy too. How would you like to be given the exclusive opportunity to be the developer of a hotel across the street from a convention center paid for by the public? This is also a subsidy of high magnitude.

I have to admit, I havent been over to that part of town in a while, but arent there already two or three hotels within a couple blocks of the Convention Center?
What would happen to them if the government builds a hotel? It would be kinda hard for them to compete with a non-profit entity that has unlimited cash from the taxpayers.

I have to admit, I havent been over to that part of town in a while, but arent there already two or three hotels within a couple blocks of the Convention Center?

Yup. More than a few. There is also one down a mere 2 stops from the Convention Center. Then of course, most cities don't even have access to hotels any closer than how far it is to downtown. So if you include that, there are dozens. The convention center doesn't need hotels, it just needs to sit. The place is kinda blagh to begin with. If they want to make it a "place", sell it to a private bidder to make a huge "Bourbon Street" of indoor 24 hr a day bars and strip clubs. Now THAT would bring some life to that area of town AND increase tax revenues! :o Thats what I call creative. Can we get Metro on that immediately?

What would happen to them if the government builds a hotel? It would be kinda hard for them to compete with a non-profit entity that has unlimited cash from the taxpayers.

It sure has wrecked every other industry they introduce "their" competition into. Hell, it wrecked America's first schools, elliminated the supply and demand curve for transportation (at least in passenger service), wrecked dozens of other industries for various illegitimate reasons.

* How about an always-open food place (with actual food)

* Seating near the food/wifi area, with AC for computer recharging. Why do we have to sit on the floor there?

The parking garage/exit is so remote, scary, deserted, and difficult to get out of that I may take my chances parking elsewhere next time.

I think METRoo should get into the casino business with the existing Convention Center, since it is so empty most of the time. Take a third of the space in the new wing and try a casino. With the remaining space serving the small and mid-size conventions/meetings, the casino would be a real draw for the attendees and others. Some of the other spaces could be used for "floor shows"-"Vegas" style shows. And then for the really big shows, we have the nearby Rose Quarter. Let's liven it up! But don't ask the taxpayers to build a hotel for this new direction. Believe me, free enterprize will fill the gap, plus all the other nearby hotels on the east side and downtown. Max is right there, let's use it.

Plus, think what all this activity would do in filling all the empty parking garages at the CC and the RoseQuarter. Then we have synergy going, then the so-called entertainment district in the RoseQuarter would come alive, with 24 hr restaurants, venues. We then wouldn't need Urban Renewal to urban renewal the RoseQuarter again. Gosh, maybe we don't need METrooooo.

Hey, the Convention Center looks like a casino already. Let's do it. The two glass spires look like "money trees" to me. This is real "signature architecture" that casinos aspire for. And the interior colors and appointments look "casino" without even remodeling. No smoking, please. We have to consider "sustainability" in this endeavor.

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