Summer league is over

by Steve, September 8th, 2010

hockeyMy old farts beer league team finished 5-5, 4th place out of eight, then lost to the fifth place team in the first round of the playoffs. I thought cuz I skipped it, my team would have a better chance… but no dice.

Happy Halloween!

by Steve, October 29th, 2009



From LuLu, our little “parlor panther.”

Touring the Memorial Coliseum and Rose Garden

by Steve, October 12th, 2009
Coliseum viewThe view from the concourse of Memorial Coliseum, the world’s only transparent arena

As a member of the the mayor’s Rose Quarter Stakeholder Advisory Committee, I got the chance to tour the two-arena, 35 acre Rose Quarter with Blazers’ and city staff (and a bunch of media) this morning.

Coliseum concourse
the “saucer in a box” up close

We got a good look at the inner workings of both arenas, starting with the Rose Garden. We were told of its awsomeness and  flexibility, as well as recent upgrades to the club level and suites.

But PSU urban studies prof Will Macht couldn’t hide his disdain for the “very convoluted” design of the 20,000 seat arena.  While the bowl has great sight lines and, yes, flexibility, the concourses, stairways, escalators, elevators and parking ramps convey a jumbled, confusing sense of place. In contrast, Macht praises the Coliseum for the way a very large space was kept so elegant and simple.

After an overview of the lands available for development (a small parcel on the south side, currently a grassy and tree-planted slope, and Broadway frontage the north end) we entered the old glass palace at the concourse level.

In the Bowels of the Coliseum
In the bowels of the Coliseum

Besides antiquated lighting and mechanical systems and a backlog of deferred maintenance, the Coliseum suffers a handful of design shortcomings:

  1. No loading docks… the event floor was designed at street level to accommodate the Rose Festival Parade.
  2. The original ice floor (which is about 30 years beyond its design life) is 15 feet shorter than regulation and a couple feet too narrow.
  3. Because of the design of the free-standing bowl, there is nowhere to route ventilation shafts for concession stands, so food has to be cooked elsewhere and brought in.
Rose Quarter club level
The view from the Rose Garden club level, the one nice open space outside of the bowl itself, echoing the all-around clean lines of the Coliseum

But… The Coliseum booked about 150 events last year, the same as the Rose Garden. 450,000 people attended events at the Coliseum, in the worst economic climate since it was built, and with the prime tenant, the Winterhawks Hockey Club, having the worst attendance in their 30-plus year history.

At the end of the day, it is clear that without the Coliseum as a spectator facility, the city will lose a large number of bookings… the Rose Garden simply can’t accommodate them, especially given the two month blackout on bookings imposed by the NBA for potential playoff scheduling.

J. Isaac
Trailblazers’ V.P. J. Isaac

J. Isaac took questions after the tour, and began to talk about the need for an arena that seats 6-7,000 spectators, a figure rarely exceeded by Coliseum events. He talked vaguely about “shrinking the bowl” of the Coliseum to provide the more intimate environment common in major junior hockey and also to provide more “theatrical” flexibility for mid-sized shows.

My personal vision for the Coliseum has been also to reduce the number of seats, by installing a regulation ice sheet, luxury seating sections, and wider seats throughout. I asked Isaac if these were the kinds of things he had in mind. He told me he’s talking about physically changing the bowl, something that concerns me, and likely will concern preservationists. (The Coliseum’s listing the National Register of Historic Places cites both the glass curtain walls and the arena bowl as historically significant design elements.)

Will Macht
PSU Urban Studies Prof. Will Macht, with Sam Adam’s staffer Amy Ruiz

Isaac told me that Winterhawks management is interested in the concept of a smaller, refurbished arena to call home, with a small number of marquee games played at the Rose Garden.

Despite my concerns for the preservation of the bowl, I am very heartened that the Blazers and Winterhawks both appear to be on board with preserving the Coliseum as a multi-use spectator facility. It’s got fantastic bones and a truly remarkable and unique design — it’s the only fully-transparent arena in the world.

It is difficult to conceive of any “adaptive reuse” for the Coliseum that would serve anything close to half a million visitors a year. Portland has a demonstrated need for a mid-sized spectator venue, and we’ve got the bones of a great one in our hands. The only question remaining in my mind is who will pay for necessary renovations and upgrades, including mechanical systems, the ice floor and refrigeration plant, video system and seating reconfigurations. Isaac told me it won’t be the Blazers, and it is assumed that most money will have to come from private-public partnerships.

Memorial Coliseum
The Coliseum on a bright autumn day

I pointed out to Isaac that the Winterhawks owner, Alberta oilman Bill Gallacher, might have a little bread to throw around, and he could have some incentive to invest in the joint if he could get different terms on his lease, maybe including a share of concessions, luxury seating, etc.

Isaac acknowledged that as a possibility, referencing the end of their lease in 2012.

“The Winterhawks are free agents in 2013,” he said.

Strawberries!

by Steve, June 14th, 2009


They just keep coming… we’re freezing, making jam, and eating fresh!

Burghability: how’s your playoff beard?

by Steve, May 15th, 2009

Hey yins guys, I got more beer! (For my Pittsburgh family… go Pens!)

Wounded mayor defeated by nerds

by Steve, April 21st, 2009

A wounded Sam Adams, aided only by an army of man-child soccer fans and erstwhile enemy Randy Leonard, has failed to “get things done” vis-a-vis demolishing the Memorial Coliseum to make way for patrician Merrit Paulson’s stunted sports dreams.

At one point, Adams said he would resign if he could no longer be effective. We’ll never know if this failure had anything to do with his peccadillo, or everything to do with the fact that the whole plan is insanely rushed and involves the almost humorously cocky scion of George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary issuing ultimatums about our civic property.

But this is only the latest failure for the guy who boasted to his friends “I get things done.” Remember, Adams ran on an education platform. He also wanted an “iconic” bridge to Vancouver, Wash.

Perhaps his quixotic attempt to shovel city-backed loans to one of the richest guys on the planet will be his undoing. Having been defeated by a handful of modernist architecture lovers (with support from pissed off veterans and a few nostalgic hockey fans), he’s gone back to the drawing board to find another piece of city-owned land to hand over to Paulson.

Let’s see if he can get things done after all.

Shut the Eff up, Merrit Paulson

by Steve, April 15th, 2009

hockeyMerit Paulson, millionaire son of Bush Treasury Secretary and former head of Goldman Sachs Hank Paulson, wants to tell us to do with our Memorial Coliseum.

Isn’t that cute.

Besides being insanely rushed, there are many reasons to oppose this absurd deal.

The Coliseum is a modernist masterpiece, with its square glass curtain walls enclosing a simple, graceful sweep of the arena bowl. It also happens to be a very functional (if run-down) mid-sized spectator venue in the center of our city, providing year-round family entertainment, with fantastic sight lines for the game of hockey.

Paulson cites a figure of losing $500,000 a year, the amount dedicated from the city’s spectator fund (money from parking revenue and ticket surcharges) to do maintenance at the Coliseum. But he coliseum actually provides income to its contracted management firm (Paul Allen), and could make money for the city if they transferred management to the Winter Hawks, who might also be amenable to a public-private partnership to renovate the old glass palace in return for good terms on a long-term lease.

You guys on city council want to make a deal with a millionaire? How about ringing up Alberta oilman Bill Gallacher, owner of the Winter Hawks.

Such a renovation could include facilities for public recreational skating opportunities (the Winter Hawks have expressed an interest in starting a youth hockey program), revenue-producing suites, an improved ice plant and surface, and updated mechanical systems. A restaurant/bar could be added, which, combined with recreational skating, could draw significant use and income for the city-owned facility.

Merrit Paulson’s plan for our city property would be extremely costly and would see use fewer than six months out of the year. It would offer no public recreational use.

Portland policy makers for years have failed to address the future of the Coliseum, and have let it fall into a sorry state of disrepair. But even a total renovation would be less expensive than tearing it down and building a new facility. Portland has a demonstrated, ongoing need for a spectator venue of this size, it can be easily configured to offer public recreation, and it is an architectural treasure.

So, Randy Leonard: as a fellow hockey fan, I’m disappointed in you. Sam Adams, I’m not at all surprised. But you should be ashamed of yourself.

And Merrit Paulson, just because daddy’s rich, doesn’t mean you can ride into town and tell us what to do with our treasured civic property. Why don’t you take your sports dreams somewhere else and leave our Coliseum alone.

Obama and the Leafs

by Steve, March 2nd, 2009

From the Left Coast Sports Babe, with a tip of the hat to Greg Drinnan’s Kamloops, B.C. based Taking Notes:

Barack Obama took his first foreign trip to Canada this past week. He said in a speech there that he expected to fix the U.S. economy, bring the troops home from Iraq, and solve global warming. Realistically, however, he said there was nothing he could do about the Maple Leafs.

Big day in Hawkey Town

by Steve, October 15th, 2008

hockeyWith the Winter Hawks starting their biggest road trip of the season in Spokane tonight, the WHL board of governors is meeting today to decide the fate of our local major junior hockey franchise. Kamploops Daily News sports editor Greg Drinnan, who initially broke the story of Calgary oil man Bill Gallacher’s bid to buy the Hawks, says “all indications are that the sale will proceed.”

That means, in all likelihood, by the time the Hawks come back to town on November 5, they’ll be under new ownership, new management, and, if the rumors are correct, new coaching.

It will also be interesting to see what player movements happen.

The three-year reign of New York barkeep and real estate horse trader Jim Goldsmith and his partners has nearly driven the team into the ground. We expect five-year cycles in junior hockey, but this ownership group has taken the Hawks so far down, it’s hard to see the upside — even with a darn good crop of youngins in the system. Attendance is at an all-time low, from what I can see, with average “crowds” well below the 3000 mark (you don’t have to go back more than three years to see averages around 6000 at this point of the season).

There’s no question Goldsmith and his crew have been doing the bare minimum to operate this team with the sale pending. And there’s no question Portland hockey fans will be happy to see them go.

Gallacher’s ownership also signals the end of the “three amigos” era in Portland hockey, with general manager Ken Hodge expected to be replaced. He’ll probably ride out the season in an advisory role.

Hodge, along with the late Brian Shaw and trainer Innes Mackie first introduced Canadian major junior hockey to the US in 1976 when they brought the Winter Hawks, previously the Edmonton Oil Kings, to Portland. Hopefully Gallacher will treat Hodge and Mackie with the kind of respect they deserve, and they’ll get a nice send-off (and retirement package).

The WHL is holding a press conference at 2:30 PST, presumably to announce the sale.

Update 3pm: The sale has been unanimously approved, and the long Winter Hawk nightmare of Jim Goldsmith and crew is over.

Palin booed at cermonial puck drop

by Steve, October 14th, 2008

First noticed on Huffington Post (with a little shout out to this blog), from Lynn Zinser’s New York Times Slap Shot blog. Also read a round-up of coverage of the event on E & P Pub, with some humor regarding Rangers’ center, former Winter Hawk and Alaska Native Brandon Dubinsky.