This week's news section includes a round-up and analysis of some of the citizen-pitched ideas for Memorial Coliseum, like turning the building into a velodrome or museum.
Profiling some of the 40-odd ideas culled from citizen submissions to the Rose Quarter development website begs the question: do any of them stand a chance?
Mayor Adams has repeatedly assured Portlanders that despite the TrailBlazers' special operating rights over the Coliseum, all submissions will be considered on equal footing.
Doug Obletz isn't so sure. He's a local developer who rallied support last year for his Memorial Coliseum idea: turning the building into a public gym and spectator facility dubbed the Memorial Athletic and Recreation Center (MARC). The idea is noticeably absent from the pile of citizen pitches. Obletz has not yet submitted his plan formally through the city process because he thinks his idea, despite its support, is a lost cause.
- Will a public gym be out muscled? MARC concept sketch
"We're struggling to figure out who to compete against the Blazers muscle on this," says Obletz, who thinks he will eventually submit a proposal. "They have a lot of cards stacked in their favor."
Because they invested millions to redevelop the Rose Quarter, Blazers' development company Portland Arena Management (PAM), has a contract that allows them to operate any spectator facility in the Memorial Coliseum through 2013, with options to extend. A citizen-pitched idea for occupying the Coliseum has to make financial sense, but Obletz says the only way a public athletic facility on the site would be sustainable is if they could make money off spectator events like tennis matches or basketball games... the kind that are barred under PAM's contract with the city.
Plus, PAM has a powerful marketing machine backing their vision for the Coliseum fitting into their "Jumptown" plan for the Rose Quarter. They've developed a slick website, a Twitter feed comprised of Jumptown cheerleading, presented to the Rose Quarter citizen stakeholder committee during a tour of Memorial Coliseum and have been plugging their Coliseum-Rose Quarter vision to interest groups and media all over town. Just last week, PAM joined forces with the Winterhawks and is planning to unveil their proposal for a Coliseum that includes a smaller bowl and ice arena on January 8th. Should Obletz and other small fries even throw their hats in the ring?
The mayor's point-person on the redevelopment is Planning and Sustainability Policy Adviser Amy Ruiz [who is also the Mercury's former news editor]. Ruiz says if the citizen advisory committee and City Council support one of the smaller projects that requires a spectator facility, the mayor's office will consider breaking its deal with PAM.
"Whatever idea has the strongest public support, we're going to try to get it built. And if getting it built requires breaking operating agreements, that's what we'll do," says Ruiz.
Update 10:08 pm—Ruiz clarifies that "break" is too strong a word to describe the mayor's office position. "If there's a compelling proposal that would necessitate it, we would take another look at the operating agreement. This is very important in the context of a larger operating agreement. The city isn't in the business of breaking operating agreements," says Ruiz.
- slide from the PAM presentation pitching Jumptown