IT'S IMPRESSIVE that a building can piss people off as much as the Memorial Coliseum. When the glass/aluminum/concrete cube opened its doors in 1961, who knew it would be inspiring epic flame wars nearly 50 years later?
Commissioner Randy Leonard rekindled a long-dead blaze over the future of the cobwebby Glass Palace last week when a Vancouver Columbian reporter asked for his two cents on the plan to redevelop the building. Leonard replied that he still thinks, as he did a year ago, that we should knock the sucker down and build the Beavers ballpark in its place before the Minor League Baseball team ditches the city.
"What it takes is just the will of two more council members to stand up to the raging architects," Leonard told the paper.
Raging architects! The view of Portland's architects as a powerful, hot-blooded stampede must have made a couple of those desk-bound pencil-pushing designers and critics blush and, perhaps, check themselves out in the mirror for a second. Same bow tie? Same collared shirt? Same fury over public scorn for modernism? Check, check, and check.
Fearless leader of the group Friends of Memorial Coliseum Brian Libby hit back at Leonard quickly, saying supporters of the building are "ready to put bullets back in our weapons and do war."
A public push saved the building from the Beavers' wrecking ball a year ago. But now that the public process to decide the future of Memorial Coliseum has stalled, it makes sense that owner Merritt Paulson and Beavers fans would start eyeing the prime real estate again, licking their chops.
But the plan to rewrite Memorial Coliseum's future was doomed from the start. The landmines were obvious from a mile away: The Trail Blazers hold special rights over the building that keep it from being any sort of non-Blazers-owned arena, for example, and the whole needing-$25-million-just-in-maintenance thing. To get a real idea on the table, Mayor Sam Adams would have to be willing to go to war. Instead, he pulled a classic Portland move and tried to get the three competing developers to work together like they're upset siblings in an after-school special.
But of all the slurs blog commenters and baseball fans can sling at Memorial Coliseum, no one would say the building is a compromise. With the trenches dug in deep on both sides, Mayor Adams will either have to choose a side or let the building rot in No Man's Land.