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Jeff Belluschi

Passion! Brian Libby in hyper-drive as so needed to this discussion. This is an American landmark building or maybe "world class" building on many levels.

As Pietro Belluschi's oldest grandson, a Portland businessman, and a member of Friends of Veterans' Memorial Coliseum, I only see one option to our admired and esteemed veterans-properly fund the much neglected and over due restoration of this building.

The "bowl within the glass" needs loving care. Do not further neglect or destroy this beautiful monument.

Jeff Joslin

The Coliseum languished for decades before the tragic booting of minor league baseball out of the Civic Stadium led first to it's consideration for potential demolition, then the efforts to preserve and adaptively re-use.

The Coliseum is clearly under-programmed, and requires substantial investment for meaningful re-purposing. Efforts under the previous administration brought the most sophisticated and creative development/design resources willing to so-venture and did not yield a viable approach to carry the facility into the future.

Given this dark financial and programmatic history, calling out the Mayor's effort to take another pass at figuring out what the edifice is going to be in its next life as a stall tactic is disingenuous.

Whatever happens needs to work economically. Period. It's easy to say that doing something there will provide economic benefit. For any proposition: it needs to be determined what it wants to be, how it fits with the overall program of the site and the veterans ethos, how it contributes to its broader context, and how it to do so in a financially viable manner.

Part of the challenge of rehab is that the ongoing process of aging/eroding in place, and it's failure to meet modern codes and needs provides an ongoing and augmenting liability and rehab challenge. That it not be studied would be the kiss of death.

Mayor Hales deserves credit for taking on this failed enterprise of the former administration, which started with an intent and desire to demolish. It would have been easier to let it languish, continuing the process of demolition by neglect.

Mike Campbell

Excellent post and excellent comments. I couldn't agree more. Restore this landmark and make it the centerpiece for revitalizing the neighborhood.

Brian Libby

Jeff, thank you for your comments. I think we're ultimately in agreement that the study is worthwhile. I disagree with your characterization of the previous administration's efforts. It did indeed yield a viable approach, but the vote on restoration funds never made it to a Council vote.

You're right that the Coliseum is under-programmed, but with some 100 events a year it has a decent head-start on profitability or at least breaking even given its deferred maintenance. With even a modest restoration, this multi-purpose arena can continue being a multi-purpose arena.

Let us agree on giving Mayor Hales the benefit of the doubt, but let us also acknowledge that the building only needs some investment to continue being viable. And we can't have this discussion about economic viability in a vacuum. It's an acclaimed and utterly unique work of American architecture, and if it weren't the building probably would have been torn down by now.


First off... when your think of the IAAF Indoor Championships, do you think of the Millrose Games in New York City? Therein lies the problem. The IAAF has specific dimensions for the facility and the track and other play areas they seek, and neither the Moda Center nor the Coliseum fit that bill. The convention center has the space for it.

The only suitable pre-built facility in the Northwest is in Idaho. http://www.broncosports.com/facilities/bosu-jacksons-indoor-track.html

Previous world championships have been held in places like Toronto's SkyDome- excuse me, Rogers Center. http://www.mondoindoorsportusa.com/dammi_thumbnail.cfm?uid_immagine=D0F18045-1321-B4D8-BC2BB0C73404C3B5&base=450_300

Also in the old RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

We're talking about football and baseball facilities, not a coliseum. This would not fit at VMC without essentially a rebuild of the facility, and there's 17 months to get that done if you're still inclined to do so.

Form follows function.

Brian Libby

Thanks for your comment, "Pounder." I'm aware of the fact that the IAAF dimensions are different from the Coliseum, but that's why, if the rumors I heard were true, the powers that be were exploring a temporary indoor track for the building that would have been raised off the ground to occupy the first few rows of seats. That said, this is about more than the track championships. It's about restoring a landmark multi-purpose for multiple purposes.

Douglas K.

What would it take to get a WNBA team back in town? The Coliseum is the perfect size for women's basketball. And it's another 17 events per year with potential to pack the house.

David Benson

I am dismayed to read that demolition is considered a serious option for our Memorial Coliseum. Besides the compelling architectural reasons for preserving the Coliseum, which Brian Libby has so ably laid out, there is a compelling civic reason for keeping the arena. It is a democratic building, something the Moda Center is not. There are no bad seats in the Memorial Coliseum, no skyboxes, no separate concourses that insulate the well-healed from the hoi polloi. No concrete walls delineate the classes. Money always bought better seats at the Coliseum, but it could not insulate you from the body politic.

As a young man, I watched the Trail Blazers many times there. It was an experience that for a brief time erased what socio-economic divisions existed at the time in Portland. We sat and stood and cheered together; no one distanced behind glass enclosures. We were all public. Before and after games and at half time, high and low alike jostled in that great concourse that circled the arena, glass to the sky, the city spread out around us, all seemly transparent. We could take in the city and the city could take in us. We were not distinguishable by class or corporation. It was a time when the middle class trove. It was the 1960s and early ‘70s. That wonderful building so well illustrates that America, that Portland.

The Coliseum is the anti-Moda Center, just as the Moda Center is the anti-Coliseum. The Coliseum is a civic building in a way that the Moda is not, and the Moda is a commercial building in a way that the Coliseum is not. One is the Memorial Coliseum. This dedication connects this place where sports are played and watched, to semi-sacred ground honoring those whose lives were sacrificed in service to their country. How fitting that the design of such a memorial coliseum reflects the democracy on behalf of which the Oregon soldiers died. The other place is a tribute to profit-maximization, to ever more creative commoditization, to the tendency of privilege to secret itself. One name is earned through sacrifice; the other is auctioned to the highest bidder. The one opens out; the other closes in. The one is inclusive; the other delineates along lines of affluence.

At the Moda, if you can afford the ticket, yours will be a privileged experience. You park your car in the garage that conjoins it, enter nearly seamlessly through a separate, elevated entrance, arrive in your private skybox, and have others serve you food and drink, avoiding plebian queues. You can walk a concourse dedicated to your level, not having to put up with even occasional glances from the less expensive sort. The Coliseum could not be more different. It is e pluribus unum. There is one grand entrance, one concourse. Walking is communal, eating is communal, watching is communal. There, you might bump into anyone.

The choices we make in preserving buildings and in neglecting buildings and in demolishing buildings reveal our values. They show future generations who we are. And what does it say about us, citizens of Portland, if we allow the Coliseum to be demolished? What does it says about our civil values? What does it reveal about what kind of city we are becoming, or have become or what we aspire to be? More than a building is at stake in its fate.


For the MC to be preserved a more solid business case needs to be made. Of the 100 or so events a year, how many are Winterhawk games? How many are things like the Haunted House in the Exhibit Hall? How many are things like graduations and high school sports that are there because the rent is cheap? How many events are there because the venue is so ideal that no other space in town could beat it?

This calls for a market study that looks at the local sports market and the traveling entertainment market (ice shows, concerts, WWE, etc...) to see how many events would prefer to be at a facility like the MC. The business case for a significant remodel looks a bit loose without this data. A remodel to bring it up to modern standards is probably more like $50 million considering that a modern video scoreboard is $5 million, seat replacements are $10-$15 million, redoing the electrical is probably $3-4 million. And you haven't done anything to enhance the spectator experience yet. On top of that, PSU is planning on building a 5000 seat arena that might lure some of these events away.

The best case for the MC to survive is to find a niche that it can exploit. Some folks have mentioned perhaps turning it into a year round ice center where the Winterhawks play and during the rest of the time it's open to the public. Might be interesting to see what a world class training faculty like that would financially look like.

Another idea might be to turn it into an interactive war memorial museum. I can see planes hanging from the ceiling. Exhibits all over the place teaching young kids about the battles that the country has been through. It would be the ultimate vets memorial while being able to save good chunks of the building.

Also could the Expo Hall make for a good underground parking garage? Thus being able to remove one of the garages on Weidler, opening that up for redevelopment.

I just think the business case for keeping it as a sports arena is weak at best without some additional research. With the size of the market here and an NBA class arena right across the way and a new arena on the way at PSU, it's going to be tough to make this work.

Brian Libby

Hi Dave,

Thanks for sharing your point of view. There's probably a lot of truth to what you're saying.

It may be true that the 100-plus events at the Coliseum are relatively small events. It's normal for that to be the case given the City's lack of routine maintenance on the building.

However, I respectfully disagree with the notion that a single purpose such as a war museum or even an ice rink could bring in more events than a multi-purpose arena.

The fact that the Coliseum is still able to book 100-plus events and still come seemingly close to breaking even is, at least to me, an argument in favor of restoration. We can look to arenas like Key Arena in Seattle, which lost its NBA team but remains viable as a multi-purpose space, as an example. Don't take my word for it; CityLab reported on this just today:


I think your suggestion of turning the underground exposition hall into underground parking is an intriguing one. As you've correctly identified, it's the suburban-like setting around the Coliseum that is a big part of the problem. We need the Coliseum to be the centerpiece of a high-density, mixed-use district in order for it to be successful.

You mention the business case for keeping it as a sports arena is weak. But it has never been just a sports arena. A restored Coliseum can be a place for concerts and other entertainment events as much as sports. And unique design, such as the Coliseum's breathtaking but criminally under-utilized open curtain configuration, is proven to have economic value.


Your comparison to Key Arena is flawed. Unlike Key Arena, the MC has a competing arena right next door. There is even a line in the story that says "Key Arena's new fortunes will likely reverse as soon as a new arena gets built." It also benefits from the Seattle Storm and Seattle University playing there. In our case, I'm not sure what the Winterhawks want to do long-term, and PSU is building its own arena.

I'm curious, of the 100 or so events a year, is the Haunted House counted one even or 30 (or however many days it runs)?

If you want to save the MC, a stronger business case needs to be developed. Otherwise it's going to be a tough sell in this town. I still think the best bet is to reposition the building. Whether that's an ice center, church, museum, office building or whatever. The building can be saved but needs to be reimagined to serve future needs.

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