Last night was a major treat: seeing my/our beloved Portland Trail Blazers return for a game at the arena where they began, the building where the team won the 1977 NBA championship as well as Western Conference titles in 1990 and 1992.
Even if Memorial Coliseum was a piece of junk, a work of architecture without distinction, it would have been fun to see the Blazers play in their old house. But as it happens, the building was a star of the show.
I loved thinking of Blazer fans who are regulars at the Rose Garden now, but were also frequently at Blazer games in the Coliseum before that, coming to the MC now and seeing the differences between the two buildings - not so much the missing video screens or electronic stat boards, but the greater intimacy at the Coliseum, more closeness to the action. My seat for last night's game was only about six or seven rows from the top, but it felt about the same as a seat only halfway up in the Rose Garden.
The team made the slam-dunk decision to leave open the curtain that usually blocks off views from the inside seating bowl through the glass box. I attended countless Blazer games in the 1980s at the MC, but I never have attended an actual NBA game there with the curtain open.
So as the likes of Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and Phoenix's Steve Nash competed on the court, fans were treated not only to the game but a view of Portland at dusk. My seats had their back to the downtown side, so I didn't have as good a view as people on the other side of the court. But I could still see through the glass the glowing twin spires of the Oregon Convention Center. And those sitting across the court were able to look out at the downtown skyline.
Maybe it was just my over-excited imagination, but I could almost swear that the Coliseum was louder than the Rose Garden. Granted the RG can hold 19,000 and the last night's sold out game had 11,700. But perhaps the greater intimacy of the arena meant that the acoustic levels went up. That and the fact that this was an incredibly raucous crowd for a preseason game.
Obviously sitting in the Coliseum watching the game, it was impossible not to think of the recent past with a battle to save the building, or to think of the future and wonder what this building will be renovated into. Although the mayor's Rose Quarter advisory committee is still open to any number of options, I'm very glad to see that the Trail Blazers franchise has moved away from the idea of removing the seating bowl or even a large chunk of it, and if the team retains control of the MC the seating bowl will likely remain intact. If the bowl does get altered, it now seems more likely that the team would merely remove some of the top of the bowl, which personally I see as a much better alternative to removing one side of it.
The Blazers lost the game to the Suns (which is OK because it's preseason), who coincidentally were the Blazers' final opponent in this building before moving to the Rose Garden in the 1990s. Also coincidental is the fact that Phoenix also once had an arena called Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the Suns played. But Phoenix, a very different city from Portland, did not see fit to retain their old arena. Maybe that's okay, though. After all, their building may have a similar name, but Phoenix never had a glass palace.