KATU News (Oregon) - by Patrick Preston
The Portland City Council voted Thursday to move forward with renovations to Veterans Memorial Coliseum that focus on Winterhawks hockey.
The team's willingness to invest millions of dollars in the project won out over more popular ideas like Jumptown.
From installing wider, more comfortable seats, to extending the skating rink 15 feet to match NHL standards, Winterhawks President Doug Piper says the most needed upgrade inside Memorial Coliseum is replacing the outdated scoreboard.
"To have a big screen, HD system, is going to make a huge difference for anybody watching the game," he said.
The building hasn’t been renovated since it opened in 1961 – before Americans had heard of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and The Beatles that would play in the building four years later.
"It's past due. It's really the right time to do it," said Piper.
Now a half-century later, the city-own coliseum will likely be the centerpiece of efforts to revitalize the Rose Quarter.
"The decision now for the first time is it's going to stay and now we can market the rest of the district," said Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
The renovations will cost more than $30 million. The Winterhawks are set to contribute $10 million while the city will use federal tax credits and urban renewal money for the rest.
"With the hockey team owner putting $10 million into the facility, a facility he doesn't even own, I think that's a good return on investment for us," Adams said.
But the plan to renovate for hockey is rather predictable compared to ideas the public submitted over the last two years, including an arts and athletic center or, more recently, a Hollywood-style media production center.
"For 16 years I've heard all the good ideas," Adams said. "They might not fit in Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but there’s some good ideas there that will fit in with the rest of the district."
That means some of those ideas may be used elsewhere in the Rose Quarter in the future.
What the City Council did Thursday was agree on a bidding process. It still needs to approve a final cost and design for the project. That's expected in the next two months. And if that happens, renovations would begin in spring with a grand reopening in October.