The Portland Trail Blazers have never hosted All-Star Weekend. In fact, they’re one of only a handful of current NBA cities yet to host the annual event. That’s a shame because, as any frothy-mouthed local will tell you, Rip City offers so many unique experiences that they’re almost impossible to catalogue.
Undaunted by that near-Himalayan task, that’s precisely what we’ll aim to accomplish here.
But first, the downsides. Admittedly, there are significant obstacles that could potentially thwart the Blazers’ recently submitted bid to host the 2017 or 2018 All-Star Game, not the least of which is competition from other teams around the league, most notably the nominally-retrofitted Charlotte Hornets.
Portland is, by almost any measure, a relatively-small market town, and whether the city is capable of accommodating the Tsunami-sized influx of fans, media, and assorted league personnel is a legitimate concern. Those logistical problems should be partially quelled by the proposed plan for a 600-room Convention Center Hotel to be erected in close proximity to the Rose Quarter. The hotel is tentatively scheduled for completion by 2018, possibly sooner depending on the inevitable bureaucratic quagmire likely to accompany the project.
And then, of course, there’s the climate. Mid-February, when the All-Star festivities take place, is a particularly dismal time of year for the Rose City and its vitamin-D deficient residents.
To make matters worse, players past and present have historically bemoaned the city’s nightlife, which is puzzling considering Portland has one of the most vibrant bar and restaurant scenes in America, not to mention one of the hippest and most dynamic local music scenes.
It’s also a foodies’ paradise (pardon us, we threw up in our mouth a little as we typed that), boasting more than 7,000 restaurants, a number that’s growing almost by the minute. And it’s not just the sheer quantity of restaurants that is impressive. The Portland restaurant scene has garnered widespread critical acclaim from several well-respected culinary institutions and publications. The city is also known for its abundance of food carts, which is just the sort of gimmicky novelty attraction tourists love.
In terms of navigating the city, Portland has an incredibly reliable public transit system. Tri-Met – which features a combination of streetcars, light-rail Max trains, and buses that service every quadrant of the metro area – goes directly to the Moda Center’s front door, so even if All-Star Weekend personnel were forced to take up lodgings across the river in the downtown area or Pearl District, their brief yet picturesque commute across one of Portland’s historic bridges would be a swift and relatively painless one. Or, you know, they could just walk like everyone else. Did we mention it’s one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the country? Lastly, Tri-Met Max trains run directly from PDX Airport – perennially ranked among the very best American airports, by the way – to the Rose Quarter, downtown, and just about everywhere else.
Portland might be light on the 5-star hotel scene, but it has some of the funkiest and most charming accommodations you could ask for. The Ace Hotel, The Hotel deLuxe, The Nines, The Benson, The Heathman, the Hotel Monaco, and The Inn at Northrup Station are just a few of the local boutique hotels Portland has to offer that are a quick jaunt from where the All-Star festivities would take place.
This next part goes without saying, but it really can’t be emphasized enough that the Blazers have one of the most raucous and devoted fan-bases in all of professional sports. From 1977 to 1995, the Blazers had the longest streak of consecutive sellout games (814) in the history of American professional sports. They had another impressive sellout streak from 2007 to 2011. To be certain, the fandom here reaches a level of irrationally that at times borders on outright zealotry, but it’s obviously better than, you know, the alternative.
And barring any sudden acts of god (which is entirely possible given the franchise’s comical track record of bad luck), hometown heroes LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard should represent the Blazers for the Western Conference All-Star squad for years to come.
To its credit, the league has been proactive about reducing its carbon footprint, and there are few NBA cities greener and more environmentally-conscious than Portland. In fact, the aforementioned Moda Center arena is one of the first major sports facilities (in all of sports, not just the NBA) to earn a LEED Gold certified status from the U.S. Green Building Council.
It also now features a variety of local food options such as Bunk Sandwiches, Sizzle Pie pizza, Killer Burger, and Fire on the Mountain hot wings. Portlanders care deeply (perhaps a bit too much) about locally-sourced food, and the new offerings at the Moda Center are about demand as much as they are about social responsibility.
The Portland Metro area is also home to both Nike and adidas headquarters, along with a host of other high profile athletic brands, so there is a tremendous opportunity for cross-pollinated marketing.
The Pacific Northwest in general is one of the lushest and most bucolic areas of the country. Portland is an hour-and-a-half drive away from the positively stunning Oregon Coast, it’s a 45-minute drive from the Columbia River Gorge, one of the world’s true natural wonders, and it’s less than hour away from Mt. Hood, which, during February, is a prime location for skiing, snowboarding, and other leisurely winter activities.
“For our fan base, it’s long overdue, particularly in one of the few cities that has yet to actually host an NBA All-Star game,” said Chris Oxley, General Manger of the Rose Quarter. “This, quite frankly, could be the single-most significant sporting event or event in general that the city has ever had the ability to host. I think that’s very meaningful in terms of Portland taking it to the next level as a host of future major events.”
What Oxley is alluding to is the fact that successfully hosting the newly-extended All-Star Week would also be a good test run for a potential 2024 or 2028 Olympic Games bid.
What’s more, the city of Portland would reap the benefits of a huge economic windfall if their bid is successful. The three previous cities to host All-Star Weekend reported earnings of nearly $100 million each. The Blazers, as the host team, however, would likely lose money in the endeavor, but that’s not stopping owner Paul Allen from digging into his unfathomable pockets and throwing his full support behind the bid.
Should the Blazers host a future All-Star Weekend?
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