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Veterans Memorial Coliseum (Portland, Oregon)

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Veterans Memorial Coliseum (Portland, Oregon)

Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Former names Memorial Coliseum (1960–2011)
Location 300 North Winning Way (or 1401 North Wheeler Avenue)
Portland, OR 97227
Owner City of Portland
Operator RCM
Capacity Basketball: 12,888
Concerts: 13,000
Ice hockey: 10,407
Broke ground February 4, 1959
Opened November 3, 1960[1]
Construction cost $8 million
($63.8 million in 2016 dollars[2])
Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Structural engineer Moffat, Nichol and Taylor[3]
General contractor Hoffman Construction[3]
Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) (1970–1995)
Portland Timbers (NASL) (1980–1982)
Portland Winterhawks (WHL) (1976–present)
Portland Buckaroos (WHL) (1960–1975)
Portland Power (ABL) (1996–1998)
Portland Pride (CISL) (1993–1997)
1965 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament

Veterans Memorial Coliseum (formerly and more commonly known as Memorial Coliseum) is an indoor arena located in the oldest part of what is now known as the Rose Quarter area in Portland, Oregon.

The arena is the home of the Portland Winterhawks, a major junior ice hockey team, and was the original home of the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association.

It has been included on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its architectural significance.


  • Tenants 1
    • Portland Trail Blazers 1.1
    • Portland Winterhawks 1.2
    • Other occupants 1.3
  • Major events 2
    • Dew Tour 2.1
    • Davis Cup Tennis final 2.2
  • History 3
  • Future 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links and sources 7


The Memorial Coliseum was the home of the Portland Buckaroos of the Western Hockey League and was the venue for the 1965 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, where UCLA won its second of ten such championships in the 1960s and 1970s.

Portland Trail Blazers

The Moda Center (left) replaced the Coliseum as the home of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1995.

When the Portland Trail Blazers franchise was awarded for 1970, the Memorial Coliseum became the team's home court, capable of seating nearly 13,000 when configured for basketball. Three NBA Finals have been (partially) played in the Coliseum; in 1977 (when the Trail Blazers won) and in 1990 and 1992. The Blazers were 10-0 in the Coliseum during the 1977 playoffs.

On November 1, 1974, Gerald Ford became the first president to attend an NBA game. At the Memorial Coliseum, he watched the Trail Blazers defeat the Buffalo Braves 113–106.

Construction began on the nearby Rose Garden arena (now Moda Center) soon after the 1992 NBA Finals, and it became the team's home arena when it opened in 1995.

As part of the team's 40th anniversary celebration, the Blazers played a pre-season game at Memorial Coliseum on October 14, 2009, against the Phoenix Suns. Team founder Harry Glickman, former players Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter, and Bob Gross, as well as broadcaster Bill Schonely attended the game. The Suns defeated the Blazers, 110–104, with 11,740 tickets sold.[4]

Portland Winterhawks

The building is currently the home arena of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, which splits its schedule with the Moda Center next door. In August 2007, the City of Portland and the Portland Winterhawks reached an agreement to have replay screens installed in the main center ice scoreboard in time for the 2007–2008 hockey season. The city agreed to rent the screens, which are owned by the Winterhawks, for the first year, and then either buy them outright or replace them with different screens in 2008–09. Other improvements included adding a beer garden area, replacing graphic displays, and general painting and repairs.

Other occupants

The original Portland Timbers (1975–82) of the NASL played indoor soccer at the coliseum.[5] The Portland Power of the American Basketball League played in the Coliseum from 1996–1998. It hosted the OSAA 4A Men's State Basketball Tournament in March 1966 – 2003 and the March 2005 Big Sky Conference Basketball Tournament. The Memorial Coliseum hosts the Oregon High School Hockey League; local high school hockey teams play a few games each season and it also hosts some other events such as conventions, touring shows, and high school graduations. The Memorial Coliseum also hosts the OSAA High School Dance and Drill team State Championships every year in March.

Major events

The interior during the Davis Cup in 2007

The Memorial Coliseum was designed with large doors at both ends to accommodate the floats of the Portland Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade.[6] The 4.2-mile-long (6.8 km) parade begins at the Memorial Coliseum, where paying guests watch the parade cross the Coliseum’s floor from reserved seats inside and from bleachers outside. The Rose Festival Queen’s coronation has also been held in the facility since 1961.

On August 22, 1965, The Beatles played two shows at Memorial Coliseum to 20,000 screaming fans as part of their 1965 American Tour. Allen Ginsberg, who was in the audience, wrote a poem about the event called "Portland Coliseum".[7]

Elvis Presley performed at Memorial Coliseum on November 11, 1970, and again on April 27, 1973, in front of 12,000 and 13,000 fans respectively.

A political rally for 2000 presidential candidate Ralph Nader sold 10,500 $7-tickets at the venue on August 26, 2000, with every seat sold except those behind the stage.

President Barack Obama spoke at the Memorial Coliseum on March 21, 2008, before winning the Democratic Nomination.[8][9]

Led Zeppelin performed at the Coliseum on March 23, 1970 & June 17, 1972 during their fifth & eighth North American concert tours.

Dew Tour

In 2004, Portland was selected as one of five cities in the U.S. to host the Dew Tour, an extreme sports franchise started in 2005. Titled the Vans Invitational, the event was held at the Rose Quarter August 17–21, 2004. The Memorial Coliseum hosted BMX: Park, BMX: Vert, Skateboard: Park, and Skateboard: Vert. The Dew Tour returned to the Rose Quarter again with the Wendy's Invitational on August 12–15, 2010, marking the tour's sixth year in Portland, which is the only city that has qualified to host the tour in every year since its inception.[10]

Davis Cup Tennis final

From November 30 through December 2, 2007, the Memorial Coliseum hosted the 2007 Davis Cup Tennis final between the USA and Russia.


Memorial Coliseum
Area approx. 7.24 acres (2.93 ha)[11]
Built 1960[12]
Architect Skidmore, Owings and Merrill[11]
Architectural style International style[11]
NRHP Reference # 09000707[12]
Added to NRHP September 10, 2009[12]
Northeast side and entrance in 2013
Southwest façade, viewed from across the Willamette River

Financed by an $8 million bond approved by voters in 1954, construction was completed by Hoffman Construction in 1960 and dedicated on January 8, 1961, to the "advancement of cultural opportunities for the community and to the memory of our veterans of all wars who made the supreme sacrifice." The facility is 100-foot (30 m) tall and has a footprint of about 3.1 acres (1.3 ha). It is sometimes referred to as "The Glass Palace" in Portland.[13] The building was designed by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.[14]

Original plans called for a building made of wood, which is plentiful in the region, but cost and safety factors precluded that. The structure instead consists of a modernistic gray glass and aluminum, non-load-bearing curtain-wall cube around a central ovular concrete seating bowl. Four 70-foot (21 m) concrete piers support the steel roof, with no interior columns required. The exterior appearance, with 80,000 square feet (7,400 m2) of glass, is of a skyscraper laid on its side. The curtain-wall windows inside offer views of the city in all directions. The 1,060-foot-long (320 m) black curtains can be closed to block sunlight in 90 seconds. Seating includes 9,000 permanent seats expandable to 14,000 with portable chairs and bleachers. At its opening, it was called the largest multipurpose facility of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

The war memorial consists of two black granite walls below ground level and near the main gate. The names of the dead are inscribed in gold paint, now faded with age. There are no dates given, only the names and an inscription: "To the memory of a supreme sacrifice we honor those who gave their lives for God, principle and love of country".

The International Style glass and concrete building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in September 2009.[14]

In 2011, the Portland City Council voted to change the name of the arena from Memorial Coliseum to Veterans Memorial Coliseum, to better reflect its history as a memorial to war veterans, and as part of the larger Rose Quarter Development project.[15]

The seating capacity for basketball has been as followed:[16]

  • 12,666 (1960-1988)
  • 12,884 (1988-1991)
  • 12,888 (1991–present)


It was proposed that Memorial Coliseum be demolished to make room for a 9,000-seat new ballpark for Merritt Paulson’s Portland Beavers baseball team, since the team was moving from PGE Park to make room for the new Portland Timbers Major League Soccer franchise, also a Paulson-owned team. That proposal was dropped early in May 2009 with Lents Park being re-considered as a ballpark site.

Opposition to razing Memorial Coliseum included some veterans and architectural historians who successfully applied for

Events and tenants
Preceded by
Home of the
Portland Trail Blazers

Succeeded by
Rose Garden
Preceded by
Olympic Stadium
Davis Cup
Final Venue

Succeeded by
Polideportivo Islas Malvinas
Mar del Plata
Preceded by
Municipal Auditorium
NCAA Men's Division I
Basketball Tournament
Finals Venue

Succeeded by
Cole Field House
  • Rose Quarter - Venues
  • Memorial Coliseum Reuse Study, a City of Portland website
  • Memorial Coliseum in a Fight for its Life, from the website of Historic Preservation Northwest (February 16, 2003)
  • Portland's crown jewel or a clunker?, a March 2004 article from the Portland Tribune
  • Alternatives abound for coliseum's future, a July 2003 article from the Portland Tribune
  • Urban Home Center recommended for Memorial Coliseum redevelopment, a May 2003 article from the Portland edition of the Daily Journal of Commerce
  • Save Memorial Coliseum
  • National Register of Historic Places nomination
  • Photo Gallery of Blazers-Suns game at MC on October 14, 2009

External links and sources

  • Bosker, Gideon and Lena Lencek. Frozen Music: A History of Portland Architecture. Western Imprints, 1985.
  • Griffin, Anna. “Memorial Coliseum 's champion” Oregonian, April 15, 2009.
  • Jung, Helen. "Memorial Coliseum may be demolished for baseball park" Oregonian, April 7, 2009.
  • Jung, Helen. "Save Portland's Memorial Coliseum, but for what?" Oregonian, May 10, 2009.
  • King, Bart. An Architectural Guidebook to Portland. Oregon State University Press, 2007.
  • Larabee, Mark “City urged to move slowly on stadium, save coliseum” Oregonian, April 16, 2009 page B1.
  • Memorial Coliseum & Exhibit Hall, Portland, Oregon; Operated under Authority of the Exposition-Recreation Commission of the City of Portland. (Dedication program). 1960.
  • "1,200,000 Throng to 'Glass Palace' In Banner First Year", Oregonian, September 3, 1961 page 12. (an early reference to "glass palace" nickname)
  1. ^,4846535&dq=portland+memorial+coliseum&hl=en
  2. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Anne M. Peterson (2009-10-15). "Blazers go retro but lose 110-104 to Suns". Yahoo! Sports. 
  5. ^,1516256&dq=timbers+indoor&hl=en
  6. ^ "A Heritage of Roses: 100 Years of the Portland Rose Festival" (PDF). Portland Rose Festival. Retrieved March 25, 2010. 
  7. ^ Miles, Barry. The Beatles: An Intimate Day-by-day History. Omnibus Press, 1998, page 189.
  8. ^ "Barack Obama visits Portland". Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Richardson endorses Obama". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Dew Tour Announces Schedule For 2010". ALLI: Alliance of Action Sports. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c Minor, Kristen (July 2009), National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Memorial Coliseum (PDF) 
  12. ^ a b c  
  13. ^ Hughley, Marty (October 17, 2009). "A bittersweet return to the Glass Palace".  
  14. ^ a b Larabee, Mark (September 15, 2009). "Memorial Coliseum Gets Historic Designation, New Lease on Life".  
  15. ^ Weinstein, Nathalie (January 5, 2011). "Portland approves coliseum name change".  
  16. ^ 2011-2012 Portland Trail Blazers Media Guide
  17. ^ Foster, Margaret. "Portland Debates Fate of Modernist Memorial Coliseum". Preservation.  
  18. ^ "Winterhawks plan $10 million for Memorial Coliseum renovation". KATU. December 15, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2012. 


See also

In December 2011, it was announced that the Coliseum will undergo a $30 million renovation, partially paid for by the city and partially by the Winterhawks. The renovations would be completed in the spring and summer of 2012.[18]

However, there had been talk about using two of the outer glass walls as part of the exterior for a new ballpark.

Other proposed uses of the grounds include turning the site into an entertainment district, a recreation center, a retail center, or a multilevel center for arts, athletics, and education. Another possibility is to update and repair the facility to improve its marketability.


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