Memorial Coliseum

Memorial Coliseum is an indoor arena located in the oldest part of, what is now known as the Rose Quarter area, within Portland, Oregon, United States.

The arena is the home of the Portland Winterhawks, a major junior ice hockey team, and was the first 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.


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

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.

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 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.

Portland Winterhawks

The building is currently the home arena of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. 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 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.

Major events

The Memorial Coliseum was designed with large doors at both ends to accommodate the floats of the Portland Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade. The 4.2-mile (6.8 km) long 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 Ginsburg, who was in the audience, wrote a poem about the event called “Portland Coliseum”.

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

Dew Tour

In 2004, Portland was selected as one of five cities in the U.S. to host the Dew Tour, a new 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 will return 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.

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.


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. The building was designed by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Original plans called for a building made of wood, which is plentiful in the region, but cost and safety factors precluded this. 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 (320 m) long 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.


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 would move from PGE Park to make room for the new Portland Timbers Major League Soccer franchise, also a Paulson owned team. This 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 National Register of Historic Places status for the building. Former governor Vic Atiyeh also opposed demolition if it led to the veteran memorial being forgotten. The Memorial Coliseum was given a rank of the highest importance in the city’s historic resource inventory of 1984.

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.

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

External links and sources
  • Media related to Memorial Coliseum (Portland) at Wikimedia Commons
  • 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

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