This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tonight! Memorial Coliseum's Underdog Ideas

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Jan 26, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Developer Doug Obletz sees the discussion over the future use of Memorial Coliseum as a David vs. Goliath scenario. Tonight Obletz will pitch his vision for the Coliseum, the Memorial Athletic & Recreation Center (MARC), just one of 100 ideas to be presented publicly along with the Blazers' vision of the Coliseum as part of a whole Jumptown complex.

Obletzs vision would require significant city negotiations with the Blazers and likely a public bond.
  • Obletz's vision would require significant city negotiations with the Blazers and likely a public bond.
"Can any of these ideas compete with Paul Allen's deep pockets, the Blazers' media machine and their legal lock on the Rose Quarter? This is an uphill battle," said Obletz last Friday, January 22nd, as he previewed his presentation in his downtown office. His sleek video introducing MARC to the world begins with the words "Imagine... Jump" appearing in white on a black screen. The words quickly fade into "Imagine Jack and Jill Jumping" but the satire is clear—Obletz is setting up his idea as a clear alternative to the Blazers' Imagine Jumptown.

The MARC would be a public gym and recreation center vastly larger than any in the city. The Coliseum's bowl would be torn out to make room for an extra floor level, allowing an Olympic-size swimming pool, a diving facility, field house, ice rink and 6,500 seat arena to fill all the Coliseum's six city blocks. "A building all about Portland, by Portlanders," says the video, backed by strains of the Beatles' Imagine. "Make your MARC." Obletz estimates the design and promotion of MARC has consumed $250,000 worth of his and friends' time so far, if they'd been billing hours instead of volunteering. Obletz has sky high ambitions and, clearly, he's committed. "The Blazers shouldn't be able to use a public facility to turn a profit. They've had it for 17 years, they've already had their shot at making the Coliseum a great place," says Obletz.

Turning Obletz's dreams into reality would require quite the fight. First, the City Council would have to pick MARC as its top choice from the 100 ideas pitched. Then, the city would have to renegotiate its legal deal that gives the Blazers exclusive rights to operate spectator facilities in the Rose Quarter. Then the city would have to plan the building and get private backers to help fund the MARC idea and, finally, most likely get voters to approve a bond that Obletz estimates at $120 million to actually build the facility. Obletz says all that investment is worth it. "It's like a library, it's like a light rail system. The public needs to retake Memorial Coliseum," he says.

Another hurdle in choosing a non-Blazer backed option for the Memorial Coliseum is the city could lose them and other important groups as partners for the redevelopment of the entire Rose Quarter, which is crucial to Mayor Adams agenda. The Winterhawks and Rose Festival have both signed on in support of the Blazers' Jumptown.

Blazers' VP J. Isaac confirms that the Blazers' might drop the plan to revamp the Rose Quarter if the option chosen for Memorial Coliseum is at odds with their vision. Though the development team reiterates that they would not necessarily walk away from the area redevelopment if their plan for the Coliseum isn't chosen, the Coliseum is essential to their Jumptown plan. "Some potential usages of Memorial Coliseum would not work with the idea we have for the larger district and we think the one we have is the absolute best use," says isaac. MARC wouldn't work with their plan for Jumptown, he specifies. "If the citizens of Portland wanted to pay taxes toward doing this, it could be done anywhere," says Isaac.


Put in your two cents on Jumptown, MARC and all the proposals tonight 6-8 pm at Memorial Coliseum! More info here.

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