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Monday, September 19, 2011

Lost Blazers Season Would Cost Portland Millions

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 at 3:14 PM

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If you don't follow professional basketball much, you might not know—or care—that a protracted labor dispute between wealthy NBA owners and wealthy NBA players may wind up canceling all or part of the upcoming Trail Blazers' season.

Maybe—especially if you're unlucky enough to have to commute through the stupidly congested Rose Quarter—this sounds like fantastic news. But not so much if you're a business owner. Or, especially, a city bean-counter. Because here's how much a Blazers wipe-out could directly cost Portland's coffers:

$3 million or more.

The Office of Management and Finance says that's about how much revenue, from ticket sales and parking, the city's Spectator Facilities Fund should expect from a full NBA season. Last year, to be painstakingly exact, that figure hit $3,657,538. (And, no, that doesn't include what could be millions more in indirect revenue gone missing, what with stadium workers idled, merchandising sales halted, beer taps at nearby pubs gone dry, etc.)

It's hardly chump change—given that the city relies on the fund to maintain the Rose Quarter and Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but also to pay down bond debt used to overhaul Jeld-Wen Park for the Portland Timbers. Upgrades to the stadium formerly known as PGE Park have been a huge draw on the fund in recent years.

If there's a bright side (besides lighter traffic on I-5 and Broadway this summer), it's this: the facilities fund has a reserve that's about equal to anticipated Blazers' revenue, says OMF spokeswoman Abby Coppock. And the reserve would be tapped before Portland has to dip into its general fund to cover any debt payments.

But here comes another downside: Replenishing the reserve, by drawing from any future surpluses in the facilities fund, could take years. Which means everyone has to hope this whole exercise doesn't repeat itself any time soon—and that things, after a strike, return to normal pretty quickly.

"It would depend on how long the NBA strike lasts, the impact on game schedules, the strength of ticket sales after the strike," says Coppock, "as well as other events that sell tickets at the Rose Garden or the Coliseum."

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