Coliseum Redevelopment Talk… Again

Memorial Coliseum, 1960

Now that Paul Allen’s bought back his Rose Garden and is once again at the helm of the Rose Quarter, which also includes the venerable Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum, he’s once again talking about razing that structure.

Often maligned for being run-down and out-of-date, the 1960 coliseum has a special place in hockey fans’ hearts. It was the finest hockey arena on the west coast when it was built, and it remains a great venue to see a hockey game. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges, but so are most hockey fans.

It’s got great bones, and it is the right size (around 10,000 seats) for a junior hockey team like the Winter Hawks. And, let’s not forget, the arena is a memorial to Oregon’s war dead. I also happen to think it’s got beautiful architectural lines, with it’s square glass curtain walls enclosing the gracefully scalloped arena bowl.

Back in ’03-’04, the city studied options to reuse the Coliseum, with ideas ranging from a Home Depot to a public recreation complex.

The recreation complex idea, which would have included swimming pools and a public ice rink, died when a grant from McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc fell through. I actually liked that idea, if only because it would be the sole publicly-owned ice rink in the metro area (there are currently no ice rinks in the city of Portland, the ice sheets at the Coliseum and Rose Garden notwithstanding).

But the best idea is to refurbish the Coliseum as a first-rate spectator facility. With the Winter Hawks continuing as the primary tenant, and a reasonable booking schedule for concerts, trade shows and other sporting events, the city-owned Coliseum can be profitable, as it was in the fiscal year that ended in June, 2007.

Put in luxury boxes, restaurants, and modern seating. Remodel the locker rooms and press facilities. Replace the antiquated ice plant, and replace the ice floor with a regulation size surface.

And I don’t know why nobody ever suggests this: open up the ice sheet for public skating and rec league hockey. There is ample space at the event level for facilities to accommodate locker rooms, skate rental and concessions.

Whatever we do, we definitely shouldn’t listen to Paul Allen. He’s proven repeatedly that he doesn’t know how to run a Basketball team or an arena. The brief time when he didn’t run the Rose Quarter was probably the best-booked, most profitable period in its history.

19 Comments so far

  1. chris (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

    I would _love_ an open air public ice rink in the downtown portland area.

    I’m not a big fan of the current Coliseum, although the architects seem to like the glass features.

    Why doesn’t Lloyd Center’s ice rink qualify as in the city of Portland?

  2. Steve (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

    Oops, my hockey bias is showing in not counting Lloyd. Yep, we have one substandard sheet of ice in the city of Portland, without hockey.

    I’ve thought that a public rink would go well where they tore down the old produce warehouse between SE Belmont and Taylor and 10th and 11th. Make it covered, with roll-up doors around the perimeter so you could open it up to the air when it’s cold enough. There’s enough space for two ice sheets.

  3. melissa lion (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

    I like the idea of the recreation complex. Goes back to the old days of public pools, like sutro baths in SF, or those amazing pools in Budapest. I’m a romantic.

  4. Steve (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

    I still like the idea of a rec complex, too, but I really think we need to preserve the arena more or less the way it was designed. (The "MARC" that was proposed to be built with the Kroc money would have gutted the arena, but preserved the glass curtain walls.)

    The thing is, there’s a ton of under-used exhibition space under the plaza that could be used for recreation space, preserving the arena bowl for spectator hockey, as well as recreational public use of the ice rink.

  5. McAngryPants (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

    leave it how it is and bring the Penguins to town. it’s more than they deserve.

    okay, okay, okay…I’m still bitter about the brief (BRIEF) period when it looked like PDX would get a another pro hockey team. damn Lemieuex. grrr. le sigh.

    My ONLY happy NBA memories were seeing the Blazers play at the Coliseum. nose bleed seats (still great seats). chanting DUCKWORTH! DUCKWORTH!

    ugh. too much Portlandia. must medicate…with Vodka!

  6. Steve (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 8:50 pm

    Now listen, McAngry… you know I’m a Pens fan by birth, right?

    For that minute when it seemed like we might get Mario and the boys (if Kansas City, Houston and Las Vegas somehow fell through), I started getting a little excited. Then I remembered that for the price of one nosebleed seat NHL game, I can see five games from first-level, center ice seats in the WHL.

    I <3 junior hockey!

  7. Dodge Ram (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 8:53 pm

    I think the slab of ice over at the lloyd was trimmed down when they did that big remodel a few years back, as for the one out at clackamas town center they had it set up for kids hockey but from what I have heard they were losing money left and right so they shut it down. But I do like the idea of useing the coliseum as a city recreation complex, just my two bits. And no I don’t like wearing razor blades on my feet and falling on my ass on ice.

  8. Steve (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

    No, they just tiled around it on the last remodel. Lloyd Ice has been the same size for at least the last 15-20 years.

    Hold on though, I’m about to post a picture of Lloyd Ice Arena when there was no roof over the mall…

  9. McAngryPants (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 9:39 pm

    a pens fan?! this means I gotta tune you up now with a little chin music as I’m a Leafs fan. true and blue.

  10. Steve (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

    Pens fan by birth, but I don’t give a crap about the current incarnation. I root for the Sabres (with local boy Paul Gaustad at centre) and whoever else is looking good. I always root for an orginal six team over a southern US team, and if it’s not the Sabres, a Canadian team over a US team.

    And of course the local teams (Winter Hawks, Jaguars).

    Mostly, I just love the game.

    You skate? I’m at Valley three days a week for lunch-hour pick up.

  11. Dodge Ram (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

    Steve I’ll take your word for it that "they didn’t make lloyd smaller" but it sure looks smaller from my 40ish year old eyes.

  12. AHawksFan (unregistered) on February 13th, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

    The time has come to get rid of the MC, it is old and dirty and pumping more money into it doesn’t make sense. The Hawks must find a way to make it work in the Rose Garden, and if not they should just go away. I think the AHL or even the ECHL would do much better in a place like Portland.

  13. Steve (unregistered) on February 14th, 2008 @ 6:52 am

    If "old and dirty" were legitimate reasons to demolish structures, we would have a cold, soulless city.

    I live in a 100-year-old house. It gets dirty, and when I bought it eight years ago, it was kind of falling apart.

    It would be a travesty to tear it down rather than continuing to fix it up as I can and cleaning it once in a while. Likewise with the Coliseum.

    The Rose Garden is nearly twice the size of the Coliseum. They serve different purposes. A junior or minor league pro hockey team doesn’t need 20,000 seats, and it would be far less cost-effective to build a new 6,000-8,000 seat arena in the suburbs (like the Seattle WHL team is doing).

    A thoughtful rehab of the Coliseum is the smartest thing the city could do. It would pay for itself in the long haul, and give our beloved WHL franchise a first-rate venue without having to build from scratch or move from the first US city to have a Canadian major junior hockey franchise.

    Go Hawks!

  14. McAngryPants (unregistered) on February 14th, 2008 @ 10:13 am

    @ Steve

    I don’t skate anymore. Once played left defense…but now some parts on me don’t work so good so I don’t skate.

    When the playoffs kick off we should drink beer sometime at Claudias on Hawthorne. soooo many TVs. it’s a smoke pit and it drives me insane…but the sheer number of games that I can watch at the exact same time makes the AD boy in my happy.

  15. Steve (unregistered) on February 14th, 2008 @ 10:20 am

    D-men rawk!

    I was at George’s (corner of N. Interstate and Killingsworth) the other night, and they had two big screens playing two different NHL Center Ice games in HD. I didn’t know where to put my eyes!

    Yeah, I came home smelling like an ash tray, but it beats watching on my 19" whatever two games a week Versus has on.

  16. McAngryPants (unregistered) on February 14th, 2008 @ 10:56 am

    I ride by George’s all the time! Always wondered what kind of shithole it was. We’ll make that the place then.

    BTW, from my OTHER favorite blog…

  17. Steve (unregistered) on February 14th, 2008 @ 11:21 pm

    It’s a "sports"/neighborhood shithole. I usually stop in there to grab a quick drink or two before I hop the Max down the the Coliseum to see the Hawks play.

  18. divebarwife (unregistered) on February 15th, 2008 @ 9:43 am

    The A&L Tavern on the corner of 60th & Glisan is a big hockey bar as well – same set-up as the others – lots of big TVs and a smokey den – but they’re very supportive of hockey.

  19. Harley L. Wedel (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

    Sent to the Oregonian on 2/8/08, but of course not used

    To the Editor:
    The Wednesday, February 8, 2008 edition of the Oregonian contained a story of the continuing and perpetual attack on the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. However, there is a glaring disconnect in the story because the authors of the piece seem to have forgotten what a "MEMORIAL" is. Please allow me to assist them with the following;

    Webster describes a memorial as:
    "Anything intended to preserve the memory of a person or event; something which serves to keep something else in remembrance; a monument. Serving to preserve remembrance; commemorative; as, a memorial building."

    Nearly a half-century ago Portland’s Mayor Shrunk stood before the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum to dedicate the structure everyone knew would continue to live on for a century or more as a tribute to area Veterans. The attendees heard the following words:



    JANUARY 8, 1961

    You may read these words of dedication on the bronze plaque near the fountain and lower north entry into the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.


    Perhaps the planners and area citizens should consider some historical facts. Over the centuries, and around the world, citizens of cities and states who once built Memorials to their warriors have revered them in perpetuity, no matter how great the commercial value of the site. The Brandenburg Gate, Arc de Triomphe, Nelson’s statue, Grants Tomb, and many others spring to mind. Each is on some of the most valuable and desirable property in the city where it stands, yet all are sacrosanct, totally untouchable.

    Even today, over two thousand years after the Roman wars of expansion, visitors in Italy can admire Memorials and monuments dedicated to the men of Caesar’s armies. Should we judge by this fact Caesar’s Legionnaires were more important to all civilization than the warriors of today are to the citizens in the land of this Memorial?

    Are modern desecrators and destroyers of Memorials attempting to tell the world our "once-upon-a-time heroes" represented by names on these monuments have become less honorable or dead simply because a few years have gone by? Are the deeds of those Honored Dead any less important as time passes and memories grow dim?

    Family, friends, and comrades who gave a last full measure of devotion by fighting and dying in the name of freedom for the country should be remembered with reverence by all citizens, both today and in the future.

    From inception, the expected destiny for any Memorial is to remain a "forever thing," an object to be revered by each generation of new citizens. This is how it should remain with Memorials raised to Honor the citizen warriors lost during each of our wars.

    A Memorial is forever. Have those who would tear this Memorial down simply to enhance a "bottom-line" no shame at all?

    Harley L. Wedel
    Veteran’s Action Committee
    PO Box 85
    Fairview, OR, 97024

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