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Memorial Coliseum
Portland Memorial Coliseum - Portland Oregon.jpg
Location 300 N Winning St (or 1401 N Wheeler Ave), Portland, OR 97227
Coordinates 45°31′56″N 122°40′10″W / 45.53222°N 122.66944°W / 45.53222; -122.66944Coordinates: 45°31′56″N 122°40′10″W / 45.53222°N 122.66944°W / 45.53222; -122.66944
Broke ground February 4, 1959
Opened November, 1960
Owner City of Portland
Operator Global Spectrum
Construction cost $8 million USD
Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Capacity Basketball: 12,888 Concerts: 13,000
Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) (1970-1995)
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

The 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. Known locally as the Coliseum, 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 NBA. The International Style glass and concrete building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in September 2009.[1]



Financed by an $8 million bond approved by voters in 1954, construction was completed by Hoffman Construction in 1960 and it was 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 ft (30 m) tall and has a footprint of about 3.1 acres (13,000 m²). It is sometimes referred to as "The Glass Palace" in Portland.[2] The building was designed by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.[1]

Original plans called for a building made of wood, plentiful in the region; but cost and safety factors mitigated against this. The structure instead consists of a modernistic gray glass aluminum non load-bearing curtain wall cube around a vast central ovular concrete seating bowl. Four seventy foot concrete piers support the steel roof, with no interior columns required. The exterior appearance, with 80,000 square feet of glass, is of a skyscraper laid on its side. The curtain wall windows inside offers views of the city in all directions. The 1,060 foot long jet-black curtain can be closed to sunlight in 90 seconds. Seating included 9,000 permanent seats which could be expanded 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”.

Occupants and activities

The Memorial Coliseum was designed with large doors at both ends to accommodate the floats of the Portland Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade. [4] The 4.2 mile long parade begins at the Memorial Coliseum, and 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.

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, the site of the second of ten such championships won by UCLA in the 1960s and 1970s.

On Aug 22, 1965 the Beatles played two shows at Memorial Coliseum to 20,000 screaming fans as part of their '65 American Tour. Allen Ginsburg, who was in the audience, wrote a poem about this event called “Portland Coliseum”.

A political rally for 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.


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 (the Blazers were defeated in both years).

On November 1, 1974 Gerald Ford became the first president to attend an NBA game. From the Memorial Coliseum, he watched the Portland 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-year 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.[3]

Other basketball occupants and hockey

The Portland Power of the American Basketball League played there from 1996–1998. The building is currently the home arena of the Portland Winter Hawks (Western Hockey League) and hosts some Winter Hawks games as well as other events such as conventions, touring shows, and high school graduations. It was the host of the March 2005 Big Sky Conference Basketball Tournament. The Memorial Coliseum also hosted the OSAA 4A Men's State Basketball Tournament in March 1966–2003. It also plays host to the Oregon High School Hockey League, where local high school hockey teams will play a few games there each season.

Dew Action Sports Tour

In 2004, Portland was selected as one of 5 cities in the U.S. to host the Dew Action Sports Tour, a new extreme sports franchise to start in 2005. Titled the Vans Invitational, the event was held at the Rose Quarter from August 17–21. The Memorial Coliseum hosted BMX: Park, BMX: Vert, Skateboard: Park, and Skateboard: Vert. The Dew Action Sports Tour will return to Portland for year 3.

Portland Winter Hawks

In August 2007, The City of Portland and the Portland Winter Hawks reached an agreement to have replay screens installed in the main center ice scoreboard in time for the 2007–08 hockey season. The City will rent the screens, which are owned by the Winter Hawks, for the first year, and either buy them outright or replace them with different screens in 2008–09. Other improvements are also in progress, such as adding a 'beer garden' area, replacing graphic displays, and general painting and repairs.

The interior during the Davis Cup in 2007.

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.


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 MLS franchise, also a Paulson owned team. This proposal was taken off the table 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 this leaves the memorial to war dead being forgotten. The Memorial Coliseum was given a rank of the highest importance (I) in the city’s Historic Resource Inventory of 1984.[4] The building is currently valued at over $44 million.[5]

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


  • 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. (Dedicaton program). 1960.
  • Miles, Barry. The Beatles: An Intimate Day-by-day History. Omnibus Press, 1998, page 189.
  • "1,200,000 Throng to 'Glass Palace' In Banner First Year", Oregonian, September 3, 1961 page 12. (an early reference to "glass palace" nickname)

External links and sources

Preceded by
Home of the
Portland Trail Blazers

1970 – 1995
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


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