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Allen is on the hook for over $200 million for an arena that, in virtually every other large city in the U.S., is paid for primarily with public funds. Why on earth would anyone expect the deal to be set up in a way that allows the MC to compete on an equal or better footing with its new, debt-laiden neighbor?

And your comment about Peregrine is disgusting and uncalled for. Paulson did not spearhead this movement and he made a real, concerted effort to try and make it work at Lents. It doesn't pencil out, and there are no other viable sites available. Period.

The lack of understanding in here of basic economics (both in general, and particularly in regards to this situation) is a stain on what is otherwise an excellent blog.

James M Harrison

To the supporters of preserving Memorial Coliseum:

Please know that in your push to preserve this building, you are killing Portland's chances of landing a MLS franchise. I wish there was a way to decouple the two. The mayor was the one who pushed to move the minor league ball site to the Rose Quarter, not Paulson.

I would just ask that in your zeal to save this building, you make mention that it is not your deisire to kill the MLS to PDX bid, unless that is, in fact, your intention.

Thanks for taking this into consideration.

Brian Libby

I absolutely hope MLS comes to Portland. But I will never forgive Merritt Paulsen for threatening one of the great landmarks of Portland architecture.

Brian Libby


I apologize for the wisecrack about Peregrine development. You're right, it was uncalled for. Although I think your calling the comment "disgusting" is quite hyperbolic.

Let me be perfectly clear: this deal is about architecture to me first, and economics second. I disagree with your assertion that I lack basic understanding of economics. I do not dispute for a moment that saving the Coliseum may be more expensive than razing it.

However, you know what would undoubtedly be the most economical thing for the city to do? Nothing. How about we just forget all of this, if economics is your concern? Nobody is putting a gun to the head of the city saying we have to tear down a building.

And also in regard to economics, are you disputing the economic findings of professor Will Macht of Portland State University? Everything I said about the economics of the deal was based on his findings. Notice that these parts of the post were in quotation marks. I've merely passed on HIS economic findings to readers and then included my opinion about what it means.

Jim Heuer

Brian, bravo for your efforts to bring this contractual and economic reality to light. While there has been some limited coverage of this operating agreement in the press, and tangential references to it in comments in this blog, it hasn't received nearly the attention it should have.

Perhaps one can understand Paul Allen's interests pushing for this type of agreement, since it provided them a mechanism for destroying their arena competition. But, the city of Portland was not compelled to accept it. In fact, as I remember it, at the time the deal was struck, there was a lot of public objection to it for exactly the reason that it put the future of the MC in the hands of those with an incentive to destroy it.

Fundamentally, if the city is on the hook for the maintenance of the building, it should have contracted operations to an entity with interests aligned with the city: namely maximizing revenue for the Memorial Coliseum, and therefor for the city.

One last remark relative to economics... it is very interesting that those advocating for building one of these big sports venues with pots of public money put great emphasis on the public benefits of drawing crowds into the city -- and the resulting increases in tax revenues. But, now that the question of demolition is being considered, the only economic consideration is "does the building cover its operating expenses?". Nowhere is anyone considering the public benefits to the city of the sports and other events currently held at the MC -- not to mention those that would be held there if it were maintained properly and run by an entity dedicated to its success.



You're right, "disgusting" was not a proper choice of words. I guess I was thinking more broadly in the context of the motives that some people have (not you) in opposing this deal.

In regards to the economics of "the deal", I guess it depends on which deal we're talking about. If it has to do the management of the MC, what I'm saying is that it should surprise no one that OAC wants more events in the Rose Garden, and a city the size of Portland cannot make two facilities like the MC and RG economically viable. It's tough even in larger cities - look at Seattle-Tacoma, and look at Phoenix-Glendale, both of whom are barely scraping by with multiple larger arenas (and they aren't even located next to each other).

If "the deal" is in reference to a AAA baseball stadium at the MC site, I have studied all of top 35 metro areas and in my opinion, a AAA baseball stadium at that site (with the Rose Garden across the street and unused transportation infrastructure all around) would be the highest, best use of the land. Every similar setup I have seen across the country (AAA stadium + wintertime major sports arena + adjacent to downtown + shared infrastructure) has been successful in terms of creating a destination spot and spurring mixed-use development.

Whether it has been successful in terms of architecture (before and after), I have no idea.

I apologize if I came across as rude about economic issues and I am by no means an architectural expert (I enjoy reading about it along with urban planning issues), I just think it's impossible to make MC work unless someone rescues it out of the goodness of the hearts (and wallets), and I don't think that should be the city.


James -

I don't think it is anyone's intention to kill MLS. Personally I don't care that much about it. I don't think the public has really shown much of an interest in the sport given how poorly PGE park has done, but that I suppose is another matter altogether. I don't think the Rose Quarter is the only site available for a new baseball stadium. The process the mayor has chosen is the real problem here, not the particulars of the deal.


James - I will repost a comment that I made in a previous thread. The point isn't that we're trying to derail MLS to PDX, it's that 1) we don't feel that MC should be destroyed, and 2) the MC site isn't even the correct place for a minor league ballpark. Frankly, I'm sick of reading the blinding and misdirected hate on the soccercityusa forums, being lumped in with the Cat Fanciers and the like. And I think that's the point that is missing - over on the soccercityusa forum, they are bashing anyone and everyone who is against tearing down MC, because they believe that we don't want MLS to come here, which is incorrect. I believe the majority of people want MLS here, understand the significance of it and the wonderful opportunity that it presents for Portland. We just don't feel as those the minor league ballpark is being put in the right location, AND that location just happens to be MC. A new location that works for everyone and allows us to get our MLS team is what is needed - what is not needed is rushing this thing through in the name of 'progress', destroying MC and/or siting the ballpark in a poor location and then having to live with the consequences of acting without thinking for the next umpteen years.

And, the Timbers Army should be thanked for the work that they have done to get MLS here - without them we have no MLS team. Their activism, their passion and their belief in the team are unmatched in the USA. But you need to realize that all those traits are shared by architects and designers for good buildings and public spaces. We can all work together on this to get what we all want, AND it will be better than what is currently on the table and will be better for Portland in the long run.

Jeff Joslin

I’m glad there’s a little opening up of the critical discussion about the contributory value of the Coliseum, both architecturally and economically. I’m aware of a number of engaged folks who genuinely question the value and viability of the Coliseum, who’ve been unwilling to engage in this discussion given the temperament of the dialogue to date. I hope those voices begin to be heard from, so that the debate becomes richer than the WWF-like battle between The Deal Versus The Box.

I, like other unspoken others, feel the Coliseum was brilliant in it’s time, but its time has passed and that, beyond it’s diagrammatic elegance, is more a tarnished piece of costume jewelry at this point, than a precious heirloom gem. Like Mr. Sarasohn, I believe it’s had more of a deadening than a contributory role in the quarter. This is particularly true graphically. If one were trying to devise a strategy for linking the energy of the ‘hood to the activity center of the garden, certainly placing a relatively featureless massive box with a single ingress on a massive slab of hardscape would not be an ideal diagram today. Additionally, some of brightest and motivated development and design minds in the City unsuccessfully attempted to find a fitting active use that worked economically during the most fiscally superheated environment we may ever know. And, of course, there are the broken development and urban design promises to the neighborhood, as a result of the incomplete project for the Quarter. There are some problems here to solve, and the Coliseum may not be a fitting component of the solution.

That said, I’d like to see more discussion about the schemes themselves – what they’re missing, what are their deficiencies, are there remedies? Thus far, the discussion has focused on the potential demolition and alternate sites. The fact is – if Council throws itself behind this deal, unless a temporally and economically viable site is identified, this will likely be the site. I don’t think the term “runaway train” is ill-fitting. Given the compressed timeline for MLS, this is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition, where the project is being actively designed as the fate of the Coliseum is debated. Both discussions need to be happening – in my view – simultaneously in order to ensure that we’re fully and adequately addressing and informing the design , and fully leveraging the loss of the Coliseum, should that be the ultimate Council resolve.


I love the Peregrine comment! How much thought do you think Merrit Paulson put into naming his company? Maybe he does think of his company as an animal of prey who eats those smaller and less powerful then himself in order to grow and prosper... Food for thought.

And "a tarnished piece of costume jewelry..." I almost lost my breakfast!

Douglas K.

Actually, "peregrine" means "wandering" or "migratory," not "predatory." A peregrine falcon is a "wandering falcon."

Although given the circumstances, I suppose "wandering" or "migratory" is appropriate as well. I'd just prefer that Paulson migrate his team somewhere else.


Architectural preservationists did not put this MLS deal at risk. This deal is at risk because it was formed too quickly, without considering alternatives and without involving the public in the disposition of the publics land and historic public architecture.

There ARE alternate sites available that would NOT have coupled the destruction of the MC with MLS deal.


I think the taking of public property without the consent and full involvement of the public is like theft and is disgusting.

I also think a backroom deal presented as the “only solution” because “time is so short and the stakes are so high” reminds me of the Wall Street bailout engineered by the senior Paulson and the Bush administration and their disgusting Shock Doctrine tactics.

These tactics hurt ALL politicians and prevents governments from doing all they could for the common good.


I readily admit I'm not fan of ball sports, and know little about them, except that they're something that lots of people enjoy. That's enough for me to recognize that supporting construction of stadiums for play and spectator opportunities is important. MLS seems like an intelligent, exciting and enjoyable game. It would be fine having an accessible place for the game.

Jeff Joslin, I can't help thinking, given the image of the Memorial Coliseum presented by someone that doesn't think so much of it anymore, as a "...a tarnished piece of costume jewelry at this point,...", how the RG arena resembles nothing so much as a soft and squishy object someone has accidentally stepped on and quickly redrawn their foot away from before it was completely flattened and stuck to their foot.

If people prefer the RG arena's design over that of the MC, fine...they have it. But don't go blaming the MC's design for problems the Rose Garden's complex's area created for itself. The RG plaza's designers created a desert complete with the ruins of a strip mall.

The MC's transparent design engages people with the landscape that hosts the building; the cityscape, the forested hills surrounding Portland, the river. Its design takes no more away from the public than is necessary to provide seating for people attending events there. It's clean design is enhanced by the graceful sweep of the entry portico roof. I think the modern architectural design of the MC is far more complimentary to the ethic and sensibility of our Northwest environment and the people that live in it than the design style of the RG can ever be.

Bob Gaulke

I'd like to echo ws's comments about the beauty of the MC.

I'm quite disappointed in a city known for its creative class, innovative uses for the MC are not more forthcoming. Walking past Lincoln Center in NYC last week, I thought about what a tremendous cultural center for the arts could be housed in a such a building as the MC.


I believe a huge support group for MLS coming to Portland was the design/architectural community. This has never been about MLS. Unfortunately though, I just went on the Timbers Army site...they are planning on going to the city council meeting as well to push for the MC's demolition...so the beavers have a place to play? These two things should not even be related.


I wonder if Professor Macht has seen any numbers from the year Global Spectrum (based in Philadelphia) was operating the Coliseum during OAC's bankruptcy, because I believe they would confirm his analysis. When run by an entity with influence enough to stand up to the Allen/Blazer cadre and interested only in making a profit, the building hosted many, many more events than in other years. I was told by Winter Hawk officials that it even made a tidy profit.

There are plenty of events that don't require 18,000 seats. If the Coliseum were updated and the stigma of being rundown removed, it would easily justify its existence, no matter how much Paul Allen tries to claim otherwise.


Architecture doesn't put butts in the seats, though. People may drive by the MC and marvel at the "glass palace" but they certainly aren't attending events there. What possible public good does it do to have a building that nobody wants to enter? "It looks pretty" is not an answer.

The Portland Building downtown may look pretty but it's functional nightmare that (literally) drove people nuts working in. (until they installed the white-noise generators).

Remodeling the MC would be a nightmare that would cost more than any sane person would be willing to spend.

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