City of Portland plans improvements at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, addresses immediate safety risk

Press Release
Visitors wait in line to purchase concessions at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Due to deterioration, granite walls honoring local veterans will be removed and safely stored. A new reinvestment strategy outlines future upgrades at the Coliseum.

For more than 60 years, Veterans Memorial Coliseum has hosted sports, concerts and family entertainment events, contributing to Portland’s economy and drawing people from around the region.

Now, the City of Portland is planning for the future of this iconic venue with a reinvestment strategy – and addressing an immediate safety risk, by removing and storing granite walls that honor local veterans.

Home to the Portland Winterhawks, the Coliseum opened in 1960. Many of the building’s original systems – from seats and restrooms to concessions to heating and cooling – are well past their useful life span. Significant reinvestment is needed to repair, replace and upgrade the venue to meet the expectations of visitors and event producers, and to bring the building up to code requirements for safety and accessibility.

Last year the City’s Spectator Venues and Visitor Activities Program began working with the building’s operator, Rip City Management, on a multi-year reinvestment strategy. A report on the initial work, completed in October 2021, outlines and prioritizes needed renovations.

The City has identified $40 million to upgrade the Coliseum, using resources from the regional Visitor Facilities Trust Account – funded with tax collected on hotel stays and car rentals.

However, improvements recommended in the report are expected to require significantly more funding. The report estimates that it would cost about $34 million to modernize the seating bowl and $43 million to address critical deferred maintenance such as upgrading the electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems. These rough estimates will be refined in future phases of work. Beyond these high-priority items, additional projects will be required to unlock the full potential of the building and would require additional funding in the future.

Guided by a project advisory committee, the City will continue developing plans for the Coliseum in 2022. Construction dates are uncertain. Interim steps may be necessary to ensure the safety and comfort of the public and staff before a full solution can be planned and funded.

Visitors react to memorial wall at Memorial Coliseum, 1962
Curt Ellsworth of North Pacific Sign & Design hand-paints gold letters on a memorial wall at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in 1977. Photo courtesy of The Oregonian/ OregonLive.

Meanwhile, the City is taking immediate action to ensure visitors’ safety by removing granite memorials outside the Coliseum that honor local veterans who died in World War II and the Korean War. Infrastructure holding the panels in place has deteriorated, and several panels became displaced from their original positions.

Crews will remove the panels this winter and safely store them while long-term options are explored and funding is identified.  The City is committed to meaningfully honoring veterans at the Coliseum.