Shut the Eff up, Merrit Paulson

by Steve, April 15th, 2009

Merit 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.

13 Responses to “Shut the Eff up, Merrit Paulson”

  1. Comment from MC-Employee:

    So you hate rich people? We get it. You don’t need to keep hammering the (frankly pathetic) notion that rich guys are eeeeevil and only want to take advantage of those knuckleheaded politicians in the rose city. Grow up already. Paulson is putting his OWN money on the line, something that no other sport owner has ever done when trying to raise the profile of our fair city. The way the city of portland has steadfastly driven employers out of the city with their anti-business policies, you should be happy that someone is actually willing to bring a new company into the city limits in the first place.

    The MC is dead. It has been dead for a long time. I’ve been a Hawks’ fan since 1985, and worked at the coliseum since 2006. The place is a pit. For all of the work they put to make the fan areas better, it’s a horrible place to work in. Because of where the pipes and wires are buried, it would be impossible to restore. It has to be razed. The electricity is wired up like the tree in “A Christmas Story”

    If so many people love the coliseum then why aren’t they attending events there? The Hawks’ attendance has atrophied along with the MC. What else is there? High school basketball? One tennis tourny a year?

    As someone else said, if Yankee Stadium can be razed…

  2. Comment from Steve:

    Whether or not I need to “grow up,” the Coliseum needs to be razed, and Merrit Paulson gets a new ball park need to be considered on separate tracks.

    This whole deal stinks, whether or not you think the MC can be renovated.

  3. Comment from Bob PDX:

    Tear down the Memorial Coliseum and hand part of the land over to a multi-billion global conglomerate (Cordish Company) for an “entertainment district”. Find out about Cordish Companies and how they do business and then decide if it’s good for Portland or not.

  4. Comment from Pounder:

    A friend mentioned yesterday that architects fall in love with magazine photos of their (or others) creations, and often forget that things need to function INSIDE.

    The Winter Hawks have stated a desire to play more games in the Rose Garden.;coll=7 I think that speaks volumes as to the Coliseum’s viability and to the level of work required to bring it up to standard.

    Another friend mentioned how single pane glass would never be approved in modern construction code, due to energy lost. Essentially, the outer shell of the arena would have to be replaced. That itself may not cost a whole lot, but there’s a lot of those niggling requirements for the arena.

    The costs of a renovation will add up quite high, given several of these requirements.

  5. Comment from Steve:

    I don’t mean to downplay the needs of the Coliseum… in fact, I think it needs to be gutted to concrete. Total replacement of electrical and mechanical systems, including wiring, lighting, HVAC, ice plant, ice floor, seating, score boards, concessions, etc. etc.

    Expensive? You bet. But look at the dollar figures that are being so casually tossed about on behalf of Merrit Paulson for a project that will include very little public benefit on a seasonal basis.

    I’m talking about renovating the Coliseum to include significant, year-round public recreational and entertainment opportunities. It’s a pipe dream, I know, but I contend it’s more realistic, less expensive, and has more public benefit than the Paulson/Adams/Leonard plan.

    And by the way, I don’t hate rich people (I like what Bill Gallacher has done with the Winter Hawks, and I like his plans to enhance youth hockey in Portland). What I resent is the arrogance and sense of entitlement Merrit Paulson brings to the table. He’s putting up less than half what the city will put up in financing the deal, and he’s trying to call the tune. It’s an insult to the citizens of Portland.

  6. Comment from matt:

    Without any substantial additional insight, I’m with Steve.
    It does crack me up that he says, basically, that ‘the modifications that I want to PGE Park that keep baseball from being played there will preclude baseball from being played there. Therefore baseball must also get a new stadium.’ Jeez.

  7. Comment from Steve:

    Separate stadiums is not an MLS league requirement, as noted by the attorney advising the city on the deal. So that’s just another fishy detail.

    I also think Paulson is being disingenuous when he says PGE Park is not good for watching baseball. It think the most recent renovation (that we’re still paying off) made it a great place to enjoy a ball game. I love the retro score board, and they managed to increase fan amenities while maintaining historic character.

    Now we’re just supposed to throw that all away for a dozen soccer games a year?

    Madness, I say!

  8. Comment from Pounder:

    There’s nothing saying that MLS, LLC has to have bylaws (except maybe state rules).

    There’s nothing saying that MLS can’t revoke the offer to Portland, nor anything saying they must have 18 teams in 2011.

    With Vancouver also headed into the league, disrupting the plan at this point jeopardizes the whole operation at PGE Park- if Paulson decides the city duped him. There’s no operating agreement past 2010. Teams fold or die, then there’s less income to pay off the 2000 bonds and less revenue coming into the spectator fund, guaranteeing nothing will happen at Memorial Coliseum.

    Cleveland was once announced as getting MLS, a plan fell through, the team was revoked. MLS almost got into bed with San Antonio, the conditions of Alamodome availability changed, the plan died.

    The legal constructs in the WHL and minor league baseball might be somewhat different, but not much. The Winter Hawks can have their franchise pulled for certain reasons, I’d tend to believe. It’s all madness.

    Frankly, I can’t see how the Coliseum can be FEASIBLY retrofitted… mostly from the sense that the city isn’t going to want to compete with the Rose Garden. At least not there. Maybe an arena shared with Portland State University?

    I will admit, however, that this idea intrigues me… if financing can be married to it.
    After all, the existing Convention Center URA is the main reason for the Rose Quarter ballpark proposal.

  9. Comment from Steve:

    Hey, me likey the OMSI location… except for parking (both OMSI and the stadium). And ownership… Either PGE or OMSI owns that land, while the city owns the MC.

    Somebody was balking at the notion of putting it where the PPS administration building (BESC) sits north of the Rose Quarter… can’t remember if it was Paulson, the city, or the school district. I know the land is for sale if the price is right….

    You may be right about the feasibility of renovating the Coliseum. I don’t know. It bears investigation, in my mind, as we have a need for a mid-sized spectator venue, and the place has good bones. I don’t see how it directly competes with the Rose Garden; seems like a complementary thing to me.

  10. Comment from torridjoe:

    Steve, no one said anything about separate stadiums being a requirement. The word “soccer-only” is not the proper term; it’s “soccer-specific.” The current configuration for baseball is unworkable for soccer, and that IS a requirement for an MLS team.

  11. Comment from Steve:

    So why not renovate it to accommodate both? None of this makes a damn bit of sense, at least not to those of us trained in the use of logic. ;)

  12. Comment from torridjoe:

    You can’t renovate it to accomodate both, Steve. That’s the point. You can’t just pick up a baseball diamond and move it.

    Frankly, what other good choice is there? Without the MLS team the Timbers are dead, because their closest opponent is over the Rockies. When the Timbers go, the Beavers can’t support PGE by themselves. They leave, rent stops being paid, and then where are we?

  13. Comment from Steve:

    Can’t accommodate both? I don’t buy it. Other stadiums can do it, and PGE Park has plenty of surface area for it. Your statement about moving a ball diamond doesn’t make sense.

    But even if it wouldn’t work, it sounds like a good way to lose Paulson and his minor sports dreams. We can find another tenant for a really nice minor league ball park in the center of one of the largest markets available. What’s the real benefit of a dozen soccer games a year, anyway?

    All these logical gymnastics for the benefit of Paulson… I don’t get where you all are coming from. There’s obviously a lot not being said out loud; it just doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    Nobody likes to talk about how Portland got screwed on the last stadium deal on behalf of Marshall Glickman’s PFE, and how Paulson’s helping save political face for City Hall by paying back rent.

    Is this all just loyalty to Adams (and Katz) and their patrons?

    Because seriously… y’all are sounding nuts trying to justify this crazy deal. I mean… damn.