Trail Blazers: How to Improve the Moda Center Experience


Those who have ever had the pleasure of seeing a game at the Memorial Coliseum know what I mean. There is something a little unique, a little interesting about being not just in a giant indoor space, but a giant indoor space that you can sort of see out of: the glass that surrounds the building and the low-cut upper tier allow even those from the floor to view out and see clouds, sky, or the occasional bird or plane.

You don’t get that experience everywhere in basketball.

The Moda Center, while newer, larger, and aesthetically more pleasing from the outside, feels like every other arena. There’s nothing about it that screams, “THIS IS UNIQUE! THIS IS PORTLAND!” Not that it’s necessary, but for a franchise looking to hook a new generation of Blazer Maniacs, every detail and ever experience within an experience is crucial in touching something in a persons psyche that pulls them back.

True, that which brings people back is most often the team, especially when they’re winning. But the long, flowing glass ribbon at Memorial Coliseum is intriguing. I kind of want to go back just for the sake of being back in the building.

So what can the Moda Center do to inspire? What can be changed to make people feel almost as passionately about the building as they do about the Trail Blazers?

Improve the balconies. My partner and I went outside on the 300-level and stepped out into a non-smoking balcony, Bunk sandwich in one hand and a Laurelwood IPA in the other. There was a little leaning ledge with a little space to put your stuff, away from the hustle and bustle inside the arena, where you could just lean, take in some fresh air, and mentally prepare for the game ahead.That was really cool.

But you know what would be even cooler? A larger, even better balcony, with water fountains to refill your cup and (protected) televisions to afford you a glimpse of what was happening inside. Being able to lean against the edge was AWESOME, but there wasn’t quite enough real estate to accommodate everyone. It was also a bit of a turn-off that the only view was of Wheeler Ave. and I-5. Could they somehow construct and provide access to a higher balcony? What about rooftop seating? Ahh! NOW we’re talking!

Institutionalize pre-game gawking. The best part about arriving early to a game is to sneak down into the 100-level, past row R, past row E, and all the way past A and AA to get courtside and watch the guys warm up. As it stands, the aisles are just… aisles. And I don’t know whether you are technically allowed to be there without a ticket (but I’ve always been polite and have never been hassled about it). For those who have never been closer than hundred feet to a professional basketball player, it’s almost disorienting. They’re so TALL and so BIG but they move so FAST. You can only feel that if you’re right there.

Widen those lower aisles, maybe create a little bump-out near the bottom where a dozen or so kids (or kids-at-heart) can stand and gape, and maybe put up a sign that says, “If it’s still 30 minutes before the game, come on down and take a peek!” It’s a special experience just to be able to see the players in their warm-ups, and it should be easier for people to do.

Get local bands to play at halftime. I admit. I don’t understand the point of halftime shows, really. People are peeing, eating, moving around to stretch… why do you want them to stay in their seats, again? Regardless, you may as well throw down a quick carpet and a few power outlets and let some local bands play 2 quick songs every few games. It will get them exposure unlike they could ever have imagined, and it might be a good way to better-connect the fans with the Portland music scene.

And along those lines…

Turn down the volume. Really. I play drums, and even I think it’s too loud during pregame, and that’s a year AFTER the Blazers said it was too loud and that it was going to be turned down a bit! I really like incorporating more visual encouragement (like the white banners upon which images were projected near the court during this years’ playoffs). More ideas like that, less noise.

The Moda Center is a pretty cool building, but let’s face it… it’s not something you remember for years and years. The games? Yes. But the experience should also stick in your mind, especially for newcomers, so that they are left with a feeling that a Trail Blazers experience truly cannot be replicated anywhere in the basketball world.

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