Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Designed by the globally renowned firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) and completed in 1960, Veterans Memorial Coliseum (VMC) is a strikingly simple architectural composition consisting of a square glass box holding a concrete seating bowl. When built, it was a technological feat of engineering unrivaled by any other large civic structure in the Pacific Northwest and a fully articulated example of International-style Modernism. The building’s innovative structural system carries the building's entire weight on four concrete columns, leaving the arena free of any interior supports and allowing for the building's four walls to be constructed entirely of glass—providing spectators with a 360-degree view outside.
The VMC has served the Portland area well, having hosted more than 5,000 events over its 56 years. It continues to be actively used, with an average of 117 events per year, including high school graduations, conventions, trade shows, concerts, the century-old Portland Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade, and Portland Winterhawks hockey matches. It represents the collective memories of Portlanders who have witnessed some of the city’s most remarkable moments—from The Beatles to the Trail Blazers.
In order for the VMC to continue serving the community of Portland as a multi-purpose arena, clear direction and new investments are needed soon. Many of the building’s critical systems date to its original construction and are in need of replacement, and deferred maintenance has accumulated to a point which the costs of keeping the facility open will begin to rise rapidly. Saving it requires Portland city officials and local partners to work together now to assure that Portlanders can continue to benefit from this civic and architectural treasure for decades to come.
- The City of Portland and local partners determine a clear future for the VMC that includes rehabilitation and active use, while celebrating its landmark design and role as a veterans memorial.
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