Stadium is right for Rose Quarter


Whatever qualities it has in the eyes of its admirers, there's little doubt that Portland's Memorial Coliseum has outlived its original purpose as a world-class events center that also honors fallen warriors.

It's been 14 years now since the coliseum played a central role in Portland life. When the larger Rose Garden arena opened in 1995, it relegated the coliseum to secondary status. Yes, the facility has hosted Portland Winter Hawks games and it occasionally snares a high-level event such as the 2007 Davis Cup tennis finals, but too often, it is underutilized or just plain empty.

Recent discussions about leveling the coliseum have raised the ire of some veterans, but we don't believe this shell of a building fulfills the intent to honor those who died at war. It would be more appropriate to provide that recognition in a vibrant and prominently used venue.

That's one reason why the Portland City Council should stick with its original decision to locate a baseball stadium in the Rose Quarter - even if it means razing the coliseum.

Good access and no neighbors

The coliseum is just one of many issues city commissioners must consider as they negotiate with Merritt Paulson, owner of the Triple-A Portland Beavers and the soon-to-be-owner of Portland's Major League Soccer franchise. Paulson proposes, with the city's financial help, to renovate PGE Park for the soccer team and to build a new baseball stadium elsewhere.

Paulson is correct is his assessment that the Rose Quarter is the ideal spot for such a stadium. That area of town is centrally located and is served by two freeways and two light rail lines. And unlike the Lents neighborhood, which also has been considered as a potential stadium site, the Rose Quarter has no residential areas that might be bothered by noise or music from an outdoor stadium.

The need for a new stadium became more immediate in March, when Major League Soccer officials announced Portland had been selected for an expansion team that would begin play in 2011. Because Major League Soccer prefers a stadium dedicated to soccer, Paulson proposed renovating PGE Park and moving his Beavers to a new location.

But the initial plan - which called for a stadium in the Rose Quarter - has encountered resistance from three sources: veterans who believe it would be an insult to tear down Memorial Coliseum; the Portland Trail Blazers organization, which has its own designs for the Rose Quarter; and architectural historians who believe the structure ought to be preserved.

Choose site and clarify finances

We believe, however, that the coliseum's original symbolic and architectural attributes can be incorporated into a new stadium, which ought to be named 'Memorial Stadium' if it is built at the coliseum site. As for the Blazers, their ambitions for an entertainment district can be accommodated by expanding beyond the boundaries of the two current arenas.

While the Blazers and veterans are important voices to be considered in the stadium siting, this whole discussion regarding the coliseum has further muddled an already complicated financial arrangement to bring Major League Soccer to town. The city commissioners need to separate their choices.

Since all parties concur that soccer should be housed at PGE Park, the city and Paulson should come to agreement on that component first, allowing Paulson to proceed with architectural planning. Then, the council must set a realistic deadline - preferably mid-June - for creating and adopting a comprehensive plan to develop the Rose Quarter, including a stadium at the coliseum site.

Once those two steps are completed, the public can fully evaluate whether the entire $129 million cost for the stadium plans is a worthwhile civic venture.