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Portland Council To Vote On $31M Coliseum Facelift

OPB | Nov. 20, 2012 2:41 p.m. | Portland

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Rob Manning / OPB

The Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum would get new seats, a new scoreboard, and millions of dollars in energy upgrades, under a deal headed to Portland city council next week. Rob Manning reports on the agreement unveiled this Tuesday.

For Mayor Sam Adams, the deal settles the future of the coliseum. But in his announcement this morning, Adams acknowledged the comical complexity of how the plan came together. 

“Today we’re announcing a public, public, public, public, private, public, private – it goes on… deal, for its renovation and its future life….”

Rob Manning / OPB

Adams says $31 million later, the city has the plan it needs. More on that plan in a minute.

In the past, Portlanders have suggested tearing the coliseum down and doing something else with that land next to the Willamette River. But the building’s defenders won protections for it by getting the facility on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

That year, the city solicited new ideas for the coliseum. The Portland Trail Blazers floated a plan called “Jump Town” – aimed at turning the whole Rose Quarter into a live entertainment district.

But the city ultimately agreed to just upgrading the facility.

Scott Andrews, chair of the Portland Development Commission, discusses plans for the Memorial Coliseum as Mayor Sam Adams looks on.

Scott Andrews, chair of the Portland Development Commission, discusses plans for the Memorial Coliseum as Mayor Sam Adams looks on.

Rob Manning / OPB

Even that was a struggle, says Portland Development Commission chair, Scott Andrews.

“It hasn’t been easy. Four partners worked for 16 months to complete these agreements for the renovation. But we had such confidence in its completion, that we’ve already finished the new ice floor, and we’re ready to do the rest of the project.”

The ice floor cost $2.1 million. A new scoreboard and video screen are another $1.5 million. New seats? $1.3 million. And then there are the energy and plumbing upgrades priced at well over five million.

Mayor Adams hopes the coliseum could fit into a neighborhood-wide heating and cooling system.

“Whether or not we’re able to afford that will depend upon what the bids come in at, and how much of the contingency will be leftover,” Adams said.

The total price tag is $31 million. Two thirds of that is city money – urban renewal money from the surrounding Convention Center district. One third is from the owner of the Portland Winter Hawks hockey team – the building’s primary tenant.

The money doesn’t go far enough for some. Veterans’ groups are hoping to raise another $2.5 million, to expand on planned improvements to the adjacent Memorial Gardens.

The Trail Blazers are on board the project - as developers and managers.

Team official Chris Oxley says the coliseum is key to improving that area. “The revitalization of the VMC is certainly a critical step in laying the foundation for all that’s possible for this building, but certainly in partnership with PDC, for the Rose Quarter at large.”

Officials with the development commission and the Blazers say discussions will resume about the Rose Quarter. But for the next year and a half, they say they’re focused on the coliseum.

That’ll start with a discussion next week at Portland City Council.

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