Beloved by Portland’s architectural community? Certainly.
Cloaked in doubt about its future viability? Absolutely.
Some 54 years after the mid-century modern glass-enclosed box of an arena that gave Portland its early indoor sports life, Veterans Memorial Coliseum sits underutilized—and old—next door to the Moda Center (formerly the Rose Garden, one of the best arena names in the history of arena names) in Portland’s Rose Quarter.
The future of the 12,000-seat coliseum is now the subject, according to Brad Schmidt of The Oregonian, of another city-sponsored study, with hopeful answers to the future of the structure and the larger Rose Quarter development plan coming sometime in 2015.
I last wrote about the venue I grew up attending to watch basketball and minor-league hockey in 2011, when efforts to spend at least $20 million to renovate the building were dreams without concrete approvals. Those approvals never came.
With that 2011 plan skirting the issue of demolition, the latest investigation into the future of the coliseum leaves demolition on the table.
Originally opened in 1960, the coliseum served as the first home for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers (they moved into the adjacent Moda Center in 1995). The coliseum still hosts minor-league hockey’s Portland WinterHawks and a smattering of other events throughout the year. Having grown up in Portland, but without living there since the 1990s, I remember hockey and basketball games in both Rose Quarter arenas, often marveling at the massive glass windows of the coliseum (hey, I was only a kid, remember).
Plans called for the tearing down of the structure in the early 2000s and in 2009 the city again considered removing it to make way for a proposed minor-league baseball stadium. Those plans fell apart and baseball left. The failed bid for a new baseball stadium, though, served as a catalyst to place the glass-heavy structure on the National Register of Historic Places.
Along with the question of if the Veterans Memorial Coliseum can attract enough events to make it financially viable comes the sheer age of the building, which has a host of maintenance needs and a lack of modern amenities routine in newer buildings.
If the building’s consultants float a financially reasonable renovation plan, it could include a variety of configurations for the building, including partially remodeling its interior and/or exterior.
Another option, though, is completely removing the structure to make way for new development. While not a popular subject to discuss, both in terms of the historical nature of the building and the potential costs for demolition of an urban venue, right now, the future of Veterans Memorial Coliseum remains completely uncertain. Similar to how it has been for the Portland arena for about a decade.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He also writes for Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.