The Rose Garden, commonly known as the Rose Garden Arena, is the primary indoor sports arena in Portland, Oregon, United States. It is suitable for large indoor events of all sorts, including basketball, ice hockey, rodeos, circuses, conventions, ice shows, concerts, and dramatic productions. The arena has a capacity of 20,630 spectators when configured for basketball; it holds smaller crowds when configured for other events. The arena is equipped with state-of-the-art acoustics and other amenities.
It is owned by Vulcan Inc., a holding company owned by Paul Allen, and is currently managed by Global Spectrum, a company which manages sports facilities (and which also owns several sports franchises). The primary tenant is the Portland Trail Blazers NBA franchise, also owned by Allen. Several other professional sports franchises, and the Portland State University men's basketball team, either currently play home games in the Rose Garden, or have done so in the past. In addition, the Rose Garden is a popular venue for concerts and other artistic productions.
Construction on the Rose Garden began in 1993, and the arena opened on October 12, 1995. The arena cost US$262 million to build; construction was financed with funds obtained by a variety of sources, including the City of Portland, Allen's personal fortune, and $155 million in bonds issued by a consortium of mutual funds and insurance companies. These bonds would become the subject of an acrimonious 2004 bankruptcy in which the Oregon Arena Corporation, the holding company which owned the arena at the time, would forfeit title to the Rose Garden in lieu of repaying the bonds per the payment terms. Allen would later repurchase the arena from the creditors in 2007.
On December 12, 2007, the Trail Blazers and Vulcan announced that they were seeking a corporate partner to grant naming rights for the facility, with the goal of a new name being available for the Blazers' 2008-09 season. Until then, the Rose Garden remains one of only a handful of NBA facilities for which naming rights have not been sold. Currently, corporate sponsorship is offered on four "media totems" at each of the facility's main entrances.
The Rose Garden is a precast concrete-framed structure with a roof made up of skeletal steel. The arena structure encloses a total of over 785,000 square feet (7.3 hectares), on eight levels, five of which are open to the public. The building is 140 feet (43 m) tall, from the event floor to the pinnacle of the saddle-shaped roof. The arena includes a 60 feet by 40 feet (18 m by 12 m) permanent stage, and a 200 feet by 85 feet (60 m by 25.5 m) ice rink.
The building is composed of over 48,000 cubic yards (37,000 m³) of concrete, and over 9700 short tons (8,800 metric tons) of steel. The exterior is composed of over 29,000 square feet (2,700 m²) of glass, 17500 square feet (1625 m²) of plaster, 52000 square feet (4800 m²) of architectural precast, 39,000 square feet (3600 m²) of insulation, and 13654 square feet (1270 m²) of steel louvres.
The building, designed by architecture firm Ellerbe Becket, has been criticized by some in Portland's architectural community. A survey of local architects and planners was conducted by the Portland Tribune, and subsequently the Rose Garden was listed among the five ugliest buildings in the city
The arena has a total of over 14,000 permanent seats arranged in two bowls. An additional 1540 permanent seats are found in the arena's 70 skyboxes. Over 4200 portable seats may or may not be installed, depending on the arena's configuration. When configured for basketball, the arena has a capacity of 19,980, and can accommodate a total of up to 20,580 patrons with standing room. Prior to the 1998 NBA season the capacity was reduced to 19,980 from the original 21,400 spectators. When configured for hockey or lacrosse, capacity decreases to 17,544. The arena supports numerous other configurations for events such as concerts, monster trucks, and circuses. The seating below the skyboxes, known as the lower bowl, is further divided into the 100 and 200 levels. The upper bowl seats, above the skyboxes, are the 300 level.
The primary scoreboard is a Mitsubishi-manufactured high definition video scoreboard. This scoreboard, which hangs from the ceiling over center court, features four 15 feet by 22.5 feet (4.5 m by 6.75 m) video screens, among the biggest in the NBA. The arena also features over 650 television monitors placed throughout, showing the action on court. Numerous auxiliary scoreboards, located both in the arena itself and the concourses, provide a wealth of statistical information, including "hustle" statistics for basketball (rebounds, blocked shots, and steals). Three media towers, one at each main entrance, provide video of other games in the NBA.
The panels permit the acoustics of the arena to be adjusted according to the requirements of the event. For smaller events in which only the lower bowl of the arena is used, the panels can be lowered to further improve the sound and increase the intimacy of the arena. The acoustical cloud cost US$2 million to design and install. The arena is also equipped with a JBL sound system. The acoustics of the Rose Garden have been widely praised compared to similar venues.
The arena's current primary tenant is the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA. Both the Trail Blazers and the Rose Garden are ultimately owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who also owns the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. The Trail Blazers have a lease agreement with the Rose Garden which runs through 2025, and an exclusive site agreement with the City of Portland requires the team to play all home games in Portland (not necessarily in the Rose Garden) through 2023.
It is also home to the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League, a Canadian junior hockey league. Both the Trail Blazers and Winter Hawks previously played in the Memorial Coliseum and moved to the Rose Garden when it was completed in 1995. However, the Rose Garden and the Memorial Coliseum split Winter Hawks home games during the season. The Rose Garden and Portland Winter Hawks hold the Western Hockey League's record for single game attendance with a crowd of 19,103 on March 15, 1997. The Winter Hawks tied the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, 6–6. The arena was also built to accommodate a NHL franchise and there has been speculation over the years about Portland landing an NHL team; however this has not occurred. A third tenant is the Portland Lumberjax of the National Lacrosse League, who have played two seasons in the Rose Garden.
The arena has hosted numerous other minor-league sports teams as well. In 1997, an AFL team landed in Portland from Memphis as the Portland Forest Dragons. Two seasons later, they relocated to Oklahoma City. From 2000 through 2002, the Rose Garden hosted the now-defunct Portland Fire of the WNBA. In the past, the Portland State Vikings men's basketball team has played home games in the Rose Garden; currently, the team plays its home games in the Stott Center on the PSU campus.
In the early 1980s, as the National Basketball Association increased in popularity, it became apparent that the 12,888 seat Memorial Coliseum, which was the home of the Portland Trail Blazers at the time, was no longer an adequate NBA facility. The Trail Blazers had sold out every home game since April 5, 1977. In 1988, the team was purchased by Paul Allen and made appearances in the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. Allen soon expressed a desire to build a new arena for his team, and in 1991 chartered the Oregon Arena Corporation, a private corporation with Allen as the sole shareholder, to build and operate a new facility. The team soon made an agreement with the City of Portland to build a new multi-purpose arena on the Coliseum's parking lot.
The financing of the Rose Garden construction was widely hailed at the time as a good example of public-private partnership; most of the costs were borne by Allen and/or Allen-owned companies, rather than by taxpayers. The bulk of the $262 million construction costs were funded by a $155 million loan from a consortium of lenders led by pension fund TIAA-CREF. As Allen was unwilling to guarantee the loan with his personal finances, the lenders demanded an interest rate of 8.99%, with no opportunity for prepayment. Other major creditors included Prudential Insurance, and Farmers Insurance.
The remainder of funds came from the City of Portland ($34.5 million), Allen himself ($46 million), with the final $10 million coming from a bond backed by box office and parking revenues. In addition, the City transferred to Allen the underlying land. The City maintains ownership of the Memorial Coliseum and the adjacent parking garages, but the right to manage these was also transferred to Allen. In exchange, Allen signed an exclusive site agreement with the city requiring the Trail Blazers to play all home games in Portland for thirty years The City of Portland hoped that the building of the arena would lead to other renovation or development in the Rose Quarter district, but as of 2008 this has yet to materialize.
Ground on the arena was broken in 1993, and the arena opened on October 12, 1995. The project included the largest construction and demolition recycling program in the U.S. up to that time, in which 36000 tons (32600 metric tons) of construction waste and 340,000 tons (308,400 metric tons) of dirt were recycled, saving OAC over US$127,000. This effort later won the project an environmental award from the city.
The first concert held in the Rose Garden was held two weeks later, when David Bowie performed on October 25, with Nine Inch Nails opening. The first regular-season game to be played at the Rose Garden was the Trail Blazers hosting the then-Vancouver Grizzlies on November 3, 1995, a 92-80 defeat for the home team. The arena was originally capable of seating 20,340 spectators for NBA basketball. Its capacity has since been reduced to 19,980 by subsequent modifications. At the time of its construction, the arena was a state-of-the-art facility. Although more recent NBA arenas have surpassed the Rose Garden in amenities, it still is well-regarded as a facility. A 2005 survey by USA Today ranked the Rose Garden in the middle of the pack among the 29 NBA arenas; it should be noted that factors unrelated to the venue itself (such as ticket prices and entertainment offerings) are considered in the rankings.
Soon after the arena opened, it was the subject of several lawsuits seeking to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act. One lawsuit (United States v. Ellerbe Becket, Inc.) was filed by the United States Department of Justice against architect Ellerbe-Becket; another (Independent Living Resources v. Oregon Arena Corporation) was filed by a disabled advocacy group against OAC. Both lawsuits alleged that the Rose Garden (and other facilities designed by Ellerbe Becket) did not provide adequate seating for patrons using wheelchairs, and that the line-of-sight of patrons in wheelchairs was frequently obstructed by standing spectators. The first case was settled with a consent decree, wherein Ellerbe Becket agreed to design future projects in compliance with the ADA; the lawsuit against Oregon Arena Corp was resolved in 1998 when OAC agreed to install over one hundred elevated seats permitting wheelchair-bound patrons to see over standing spectators in front.
While the Rose Garden has never hosted the NBA Finals (Portland's last appearance in the Finals was in 1992, three years before the Garden opened), it has hosted two NBA Western Conference Finals series, in 1999 and 2000. In 1999, the Trail Blazers were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs; in 2000 by the Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams would go on to win the NBA championship. One NBA-related event the Rose Garden—and for that matter, the Trail Blazers franchise—has never hosted is the NBA All-Star Game. The Trail Blazers are one of several franchises to never host an All-Star game; the Blazers' All-Star drought of 37 years is second only to the Boston Celtics, who hosted the game in 1964. According to the Oregon Sports Authority, the main issue is hotel space close to the arena; the city of Portland lacks the large "headquarters" hotel needed to host the NBA and media entourage which accompanies the game.
In 2004, Portland was selected as one of five 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 Rose Quarter hosted BMX: Dirt and Freestyle Motocross. The Dew Action Sports will return to Portland for a third year.
In the Winter of 2005, the Rose Quarter hosted the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, an event attended by over 100,000 spectators. The Rose Garden would later host the 2007 NLL All Star Game on March 10, 2007.
In 2009, the Rose Garden will host first- and second-round games of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. It will be the first time NCAA men's tournament games are played in the state of Oregon since 1983, though the arena did host the finals of the 2008 Big Sky Conference men's basketball tournament. The state had been under an NCAA-imposed tournament embargo due to sports betting being legal in the state (specifically, the Oregon Lottery's "Sports Action" game, a parlay game which allowed bettors to wager on NFL games), but was awarded 2009 tournament games when the state Legislature eliminated Sports Action from the lottery's lineup. In addition to sports, the arena regularly hosts numerous other types of events, including concerts, circuses, ice shows, and conventions. Portland State University holds its spring commencement ceremonies at the arena.
Notable non-sports related events include the 1998 Portland State commencement ceremony, where the keynote speaker was then U.S. President Bill Clinton. The President, speaking before a packed house in the Garden (including a graduating class of 2000), gave a speech embracing immigration to the United States, and was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the university. On June 27, 2000, a Roger Waters concert at the Rose Garden became the basis for the concert video In the Flesh: Live.
The team made numerous complaints about a "broken economic model", and there was much speculation that the Trail Blazers might leave. The team was put up for sale in the summer of 2006, only to be taken off the market again several months later. Speculation intensified as to what would happen, and the team and Paul Allen were roundly criticized in the media. Despite the criticism and the team's poor finances the team insisted that bankruptcy was the right move.
Early in 2007, Allen and the creditors reached an agreement for Allen to repurchase the arena, and the team and the building were united under common ownership once more. After much speculation that Allen would hire Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to replace Global Spectrum, arena management elected to extend Global Spectrum's management contract by one year in the summer of 2007. In September 2007, Global Spectrum announced that the arena would undergo US$13 million in renovations.