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Memorial Coliseum Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A few weeks ago, Portland was awarded a MLS (soccer) expansion franchise, to start play in 2011. The plan is to renovate PGE Park to add more seats to accomodate the larger crowds the team is expected to draw. That means that stadiums other major tenant, the Portland Beavers (AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres), need a new home, in a hurry.

Recently, Mayor Sam Adams announced that Memorial Coliseum would be demolished to make space for a new baseball stadium in the Rose Quarter. Not surprisingly, this plan drew protest from a number of quarters,
including veterans and architects. Yesterday, the Mayor gave the former home of the Trail Blazers basketball team a week's reprieve to consider other options. There are pluses and minuses to all of the various proposals, and it's a shame that we really don't have time to give them due consideration.

As for Memorial Coliseum, while I was ambivalent at first, I've come to really admire the building. Designed in the late 1950s by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and dedicated Jan. 8, 1961, it really is a gem of its era: a seating bowl within a glass box. It is too small for the Trail Blazers today (the Rose Garden, right next door, seats 70% more patrons), and it seems silly for a city to have two arenas right next to each other. At the same time, it would be a shame to lose Memorial Coliseum (the Rose Garden is not going away anytime soon).

You can read more about the architectural merits of the coliseum, alternative suggestions for a baseball stadium and proposed uses for it on Brian Libby's Portland Architecture blog.

[update: if you want to keep an eye on the Glass Palace, I am making the top image available as digital wallpaper. For the next while, anyway, click the monitor size below to download it (WinZip file):