Soccer it to me!

You may have glossed over the headlines about the City Council’s infatuation with new arenas for minor sports. The deal being crafted is for public financing and subsidy to convert the current baseball stadium (PGE Park) into a soccer venue and to construct a replacement stadium in either Lents, or at the Rose Quarter.

The Rose Quarter is the leading contender, in part because the Blazer organization is able to put a deal together and in part because public funds could be found in the budget of the Oregon Convention Center urban renewal district (OCC). I am on the OCC citizen advisory committee because the OCC area includes part of Eliot across from the Rose Quarter and extends down MLK. As a result, I have seen preliminary plans the Blazer’s have for a stadium.

Why here? Why now, after the Blazer’s let the land sit idle for so long? Well, the Blazer’s option with the City to develop the property around the Rose Garden expires in a couple of years. Previous suggestions to demolish Memorial Coliseum were opposed by veteran’s organizations for which it, or some part of it, is a memorial. The Blazer’s are considering two proposals. One is for the stadium. That will require demolition of the Coliseum. That would be part of any deal for soccer so the City would bear the burden for that fight. The other option is to “repurpose” the shell of the Coliseum to create a covered, but open-air “square” for live entertainment events. The square would be surrounded by new retail outlets catering to entertainment audiences.

The goal of the Blazer’s is to bring more people into the Rose Quarter. Of course, that means more people coming through Eliot, more parking, more car prowls and litter, and, stadium or square, more noise from open-air events. The Blazer’s have been good neighbors over the years, but Eliot is paying a price for their success and our location in the heart of the city. Of course, the rest of the city gets to pay too because funds for services of greater value will be diverted to this purpose. That includes funds the OCC would otherwise invest in businesses and development along MLK.