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Mayor is said to hesitate on arena plans offered so far

It looks like it's going to be late autumn before the Portland City Council even discusses the future of Memorial Coliseum.

Use of the coliseum, built for $8 million in 1960 as a memorial to war veterans and designed by the prestigious New York architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, has dwindled markedly since the Portland Trail Blazers moved to the newer and much larger Rose Garden in 1996.

The coliseum needs millions of dollars in maintenance and upgrades, but they are likely to be deferred while the city mulls options for the building.

Current proposals include a privately financed conversion to an urban shopping center for big-box retailers, such as Costco and Home Depot, plus a couple of publicly funded options. The most ambitious is MARC, the Memorial Athletic & Recreation Center, which would develop the coliseum for amateur athletics.

Since early 2002, the city has spent about $300,000 to study the coliseum. A report on the options went to the printer just this week.

But Mayor Vera Katz, according to Dave Logsdon, the city's spectator facilities manager, has said she's not particularly happy with the options.

'I think you'll see the next step in the process is the mayor forming an advisory committee or group doing some additional work on some options,' Logsdon said.

Blazer owner Paul Allen's Oregon Arena Corp. manages the coliseum for the city and also pays for operations and maintenance. The company's contract extends to 2013, but it can be terminated early if the city decides to convert the building to another use.

The council, Logsdon said, 'would need to make a specific decision about any of the options,' including the proposal to convert the coliseum to retail use.

Ñ Jeanie Senior