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Hawks have lots of repairs to do

On Sports

There's nothing wrong with the owner of a professional sports team wanting to make a little money off his investment. Even a zillionaire like Paul Allen has the right to a profit.

In fact, if you're a fan, you certainly should be rooting for the ownership to be successful. Because in the long run, it ensures the heath of the franchise. Of course, that's as long as some of the profits are reinvested in the team.

I also believe it's in the best interests of a city to do what it can to help ownership make a profit. After all, the teams are tenants in public buildings and if they can't succeed, they move to another venue, we have an empty arena and everybody loses.

There is no reason these venues can't work for both parties.

The Portland Winter Hawks operate under the radar for the most part. The daily paper spends little time or space on them and, lately, interest in the team has dropped off for a variety of reasons. It's Junior A level hockey, meaning a hybrid sort of semipro with kids ages 16 to 20.

People who haven't seen a lot of it dismiss it as high-school hockey. But the level of play is often spectacular, and it's a chance to watch a good many future National Hockey League stars in their formative years.

Besides that, the franchise usually has comported itself in an admirable manner, contributing to the community in many positive ways.

If you've read the remarks of Jim Goldsmith, the principal owner of the Hawks, elsewhere in this paper, you know he's frustrated - as he should be. He's being deprived of some opportunities to earn extra revenue that could really help bail the Hawks out of their financial mess.

It would cost the city and Portland Arena Management nothing to allow the Hawks to sell signage on the concourse level of the Memorial Coliseum. There's no reason not to give it the green light immediately.

Also - since the team has bought new replay screens yet to be installed, it ought to be allowed to sell ads on them, too.

That said, I think Goldsmith - whose passion I admire - needs to show tangible evidence that he's cleaning up his own mess. He says Memorial Coliseum is in disarray, and I can't argue - but so are the Hawks.

The on-ice product is awful, first of all. Second, just buying those screens isn't enough - Goldsmith needs to quit holding them as a bargaining chip and install them, as promised to his fans.

And he needs to understand that the lease agreement he is bound by was agreed to in 1993 and has a term of 20 long years. That's right, it doesn't expire until 2013. And it's not with the city, it's with whoever is managing the Rose Quarter - originally Paul Allen's Oregon Arena Corp., and now PAM. And it's those people who can give him some relief.

'It's very difficult for the Winter Hawks,' said David Logsdon, the city's facilities manager. 'We know they're struggling, and we want to keep them here. But I also believe some of their problems are self-inflicted.'

I agree. Decisions made to take the team's games off the radio, starting games at 7:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., promising replay screens and not yet installing them, playing fewer games in the Rose Garden than required in their lease - all of those decisions came back to haunt them. That's not even counting the team's often dismal level of play.

At this point, Goldsmith isn't exactly dealing from a position of great strength. The Winter Hawk brand, as the marketing people would say, is probably at the weakest point it's been since the team came to town three decades ago.

I hope he finds a way to open revenue streams. The Hawks have been great for Portland and great to Portland. But fewer people care these days than ever before, and frankly, that's nobody's fault but the Hawks'.

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