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News Every Day |

Metro considers transforming historic Portland Expo Center into sports venue

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As Portland leaders look for ways to revitalize the city, Metro is considering a new path for the Portland Expo Center: Transforming the space into a sports-centric venue.

On Tuesday, the Metro Council held a work session to discuss findings from a feasibility study, conducted by real estate advisor Hunden Partners, to see if the Expo Center could be a good fit as a sports venue.

The study comes as several properties on the historic site are more than 100 years old and are in need of repair; however, the Expo Center does not bring in enough money to meet those needs or other improvements over time, according to Metro.

The goal of the Future Expo project -- led by Metro and the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission -- is to honor the history of the Expo Center by memorializing forced displacements during World War II, and Vanport Floods, along with the site’s pre-colonial history and importance to Indigenous people.

Metro wants to balance honoring that history while leveraging Oregon’s status as an “international powerhouse” in the sports and outdoor industries – prioritizing event spaces for amateur, recreational, and professional sports, which officials said could help revitalize the city.

MERC Chair Karis Stoudamire-Phillips explained in part during the meeting, “as a parent that has lots of sporting events that I go to, it would be nice to have something here in Portland where we don’t have to travel and welcoming even more people, which of course brings more commerce and builds our economy…this would be a jewel in the crown of bringing Portland back.”

The feasibility study had several findings, including the region's lack of sports facilities compared to the rest of the United States. The lack of space applies to both youth sports and professional sports, with ice and court sports seeing the highest demand.

The study noted the lack of space has impacted the Portland Winterhawks, who have had to limit public programming despite the high demand for ice sports and recreational play. According to the study, adding two ice sheets and creating a dedicated Winterhawks practice facility could help the city host more tournaments.

The study also noted a demand for more indoor turf fields, an indoor track and court facilities for basketball, volleyball, and the “exploding” pickleball demand.

“The City of Portland is at an inflection point with a need for revitalization. Sports can be a huge catalyst for that and is a strong opportunity for development that can enhance the Metro area," Hunden Partners' study said. "Bringing sports to the forefront can be a new way that Portland presents itself as a regional hub for sports, while leveraging the current professional team and sports corporate presence."

Hunden Partners also laid out four blueprints to redesign the center. The costs of those plans range from $225 million to $446 million, and would require "significant public subsidy," according to the study.

“Any redevelopment of Expo should support the community and make sense economically and financially. It will be difficult for a facility with public access to be profitable and will likely require significant public subsidy. Hosting larger tournaments will be key, with private management the best route to take, due to their experience, network and ability to manage and market sports content."

Hunden Partners had several recommendations should the plan move forward. One recommendation includes replacing Expo halls A, B, and C with market-supported sports facilities given the age and current limitations of the halls.

The company also recommends adding more facilities for on-site accommodations by adding more commercial space, and if needed, hotel space.

Next, given the Expo Center’s historical significance, the company recommends repurposing portions of the center’s structures as part of the new development. One proposal includes turning Hall A into a memorial museum space.

Metro Council President Lynn Peterson was not available at the meeting. In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Deputy Council President Duncan Hwang said, "Metro is excited to center sports tourism as the future of the expo center. Now is the time for our region to rise to the occasion.”

Plans to leverage the space come as the Expo Center previously generated $50 million annually before the pandemic by hosting more than 100 events throughout the year, according to Metro.

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