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Jeff Belluschi

What sane person would promote demolishing such an icon of Modernism? These pictures are brilliant. Thank you, Brian and Stuart, for going the "extra mile".


One of the top ten buildings in Portland.


If historic Yankee stadium can be demo'd then this building certainly can. Mind you nobody outside of the Portland area has even heard of this arena but we treat this thing like some sort of modern marvel admired around the world. This thing is a huge money pit when the city as a more viable and larger arena next door that generates money.

We have to move on people, to the so called handful of architectural historians fighting to keep this, one message for ya stop being so damn nostalgic and help create a new modern marvel.

The whole idea of renovating the white elephant that is Memorial Coliseum is borderline ridiculous. No other city of any degree of sophistication would even attempt such a thing.

There just isn't a lot you can do with the dump. The concourses are always going to be too small, there are never going to be enough restrooms or concession stands and it's always going to be an uncomfortable, behind-the-times arena.

This city will never build a replacement, though. And a bunch of architects, many of whom probably haven't been inside the cold old barn in their lives, got the thing on the historic register, as if it's a tourist attraction. That was a cruel joke on this town.

Trust me, though. If Portland persists in the notion of remodeling it, it's eventually going to cost even more than the new, revised estimates of around 40 million. And making it a "green" building? Yeah, good luck with that.

Brian  Libby

Thanks for your comment, Innothinking.

The sentiments you express here are ones I've heard before. But I respectfully would like to correct some misconceptions that are common to these occasional anti-Coliseum complaints (usually from minor-league baseball fans), which thankfully are greatly outweighed by a broad coalition of Coliseum supporters.

First, regarding your Yankee Stadium comparison: I loved the old Yankee Stadium, and as an ex-New Yorker I had the privilege of seeing the Yankees win the World Series in that stadium in 1996. However, I can understand why that stadium was torn down. Each situation is different, and it's not simply a question of what venue has the most esteemed sports history. It's about how valuable the building is as an economic asset in the future, as well as how important the architecture itself is in both a historic way and as a viable building in the future.

Second, your characterization of our support group as being merely a few architects or historians is not the case. It includes several military veteran organizations, the Rose Festival Foundation and Rose Festival supporters, Blazer fans, and local organizations like the Portland Business Alliance (a consortium of local business leaders).

You sound pretty dismissive of the idea of saving the Coliseum, but at least know that even if you disregard the history of this arena, be it NBA championships or Beatles concerts, it still is as a busy venue the city needs, as well as a one-of-a-kind work of architecture.

I know many longtime visitors to the Coliseum have not experienced it, but the building is unique in the world in offering a 360-degree view to the outside. The whole building is over 3 city blocks in size but stands on just 4 columns. When the Coliseum was first threatened in 2009, several national organizations such as the National Trust wrote letters of support to Portland's mayor and city council to acknowledge its architectural significance.

More importantly, Memorial Coliseum continues to play an important role as an economic generator. There is no other venue in the 8,000-10,000 seat range that the Coliseum represents. If it didn't exist, lots of significant bookings in Portland that benefit the local economy wouldn't happen. Cirque du Soleil's two-week run in May, for example, would have skipped Portland if not for the Coliseum, where it played. That's info I got from the Blazers, who run the arena. Even with the disrepair the building faces, it continues to break even or turn a small profit and remain busy with over 100 events a year. Studies have shown that a renovation would significantly enhance that.

The cost of replacing the Coliseum in the future with new construction would be easily $150 million, which is far more than the $35-90 million range of renovation options for the Coliseum. I write about stadium and arena projects all over the world as a journalist, and they all dwarf in size what is being asked for to renovate the MC.

You may be entirely right that a proper renovation will cost more than $40 million. But even if it's twice that cost, it's still an investment that will pay for itself and more. Don't take my word for it. Look at the City of Portland's own studies.

You are also probably right that there are practical things about the building, like the relatively small amount of restrooms, that will always be a headache. I would argue that some questions of landmarks versus wrecking balls rise to a level beyond lavatorial questions.

If you reject the economic arguments in addition to the architectural and historical arguments in favor of restoring the Coliseum, and will only be satisfied when there is a baseball park or a parking garage there, so be it. I will continue to work toward a Coliseum restoration, and we'll see what happens.

In the end I suspect I won't change your mind, but I'm afraid the reverse will not be true either. If I haven't convinced you, I urge you to make an argument that is more rooted in economic data and comprised of more than unsupported angry opinions. I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt and chock up your rant here to legitimate concerns about budgets, or sports, or whatever it is. But I'm quite passionate about this and as resolute as ever.


Hey Brain thanks for replying,

Any other major city in America would have long ago blown the thing up. Any other municipality would shake its head at the absurdity of constructing a second basketball arena at the foot of its archaic and outdated predecessor, and then, keeping both facilities. That Memorial Coliseum was successfully thrust into the National Registry of Historic places as a strategy play by those who had a sentimental attachment to it says as much about us as the building itself.

A couple of years ago, the city wisely put on hold plans for a Memorial Coliseum maintenance upgrade. I'm momentarily thankful for that, but hoping, too, that we someday soon come to our senses when it comes to a piece of real estate that could mean so much more to Portland if it were converted into a more useful venue, while also keeping the black granite walls etched with the names of those who gave their lives for our nation.

It feels hollow that children don't walk past that wall on a regular basis, running their fingertips on the names of veterans. It feels silly that the building is used for weddings, some minor-league hockey and high school graduation ceremonies. Mostly since the Blazers left in 1995, it has sat empty, costing the city maintenance and utilities and headaches.

Brian until you speak up, you're complicit in this hokey little small-town, double-arena mess. The millions and millions in public funds potentially spent on the upgrade project would be wasted going anywhere but back into the general fund. The city knows it, and has tabled the issue. Even the historical architects who protected the building must be giggling over how easily this has all been pulled off, mostly because the citizens and taxpayers are too soft-hearted to do what's necessary which is knock down walls.

Anything there but that money pit would be worthwhile like a high-rise with condominiums and breathtaking view of the Willamette River. Maybe some prefer restaurants and shopping. I want sports. Baseball, football, whatever. But I think we can all agree what shouldn't happen with the Memorial Coliseum: It shouldn't sit in its current state, eroding, and becoming a symbol of apathy and indifference. That we can agree on.

The building is polarizing that's for sure. But taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for a senseless renovation. The Blazers shouldn't have to exist in the shadow of a useless venue. Veterans should have a building in their honor they can visit, and celebrate.

Any other city would have solved this with sticks of dynamite long time ago.

Brian  Libby

I hear what you're saying, Innothinking, and we'll ultimately have to agree to disagree.

That said, the building is far more valuable economically as a venue going forward than your characterization. To characterize it as simply weddings, graduations and minor league hockey is just not the case. If restored the Coliseum would be about 8,000 seats, and the city doesn't have another venue that size. Like I said, it fills a niche that can benefit the local economy.

You are probably right that most any other city would have demolished their old NBA arena when the old one moved out. (And I applaud the extra bit of zest you threw in with your dynamite comment. And here i thought we were having a respectful conversation.) But few, if any, of those arenas had as significant a design as Memorial Coliseum. And as it happens, Portland has in the past decade-plus been able to attract events to both venues at once precisely because the two-arena configuration was unique. What's more, I prefer to also think long-term, about a day when the Coliseum is still part of the city but the Moda Center is town down.

There may be a better way to achieve the things you say you want for this district, be it shopping or sports stadiums. Ask anyone. The Portland Public Schools facility is about to be given up, and that will represent one of the biggest redevelopment opportunities in the city. It's a MUCH better site for an NFL or MLB team. The Coliseum site has ALWAYS been small for a minor-league baseball stadium, let alone something larger. And besides the Portland Public Schools site, there are parking garages that are part of the Rose Quarter that were constructed to withstand buildings on top of them. That's why the mayor instructed the Portland Development Commission to issue a Request For Proposal to redevelop those sites. To put this another way: which should be a bigger building priority, to build on the site of National Register-listed architecture or on the site of a a parking garage? Most any reasonable person I know would choose the latter.

By the way, the city council has also never walked away from a restoration in the way you characterized; why the restoration nearly but did not come to a vote at the end of the Adams administration is a much more complex story than that, which anyone at City Hall and its adjacent administrative buildings will tell you.

Again, I don't expect to change your mind, and you certainly would make Waiting For Godot look like an eye blink if you choose to wait for me to change mind. It's probably time for us to go our separate ways.

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