Sports

NBA All-Star Game Should Finally Come to Portland

| by Dwight Jaynes

I’m sure you saw this story about Orlando landing the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. It’s the second time the Magic have played host to the game since it came into the league.

Meanwhile, Portland remains one of the few teams in the league to never have played host to the game — which sticks in the craw of a lot of long-time Portlanders. Oh, I know, when you talk to the Trail Blazers they’ll tell you that the lack of hotel space, or the lack of a huge headquarters hotel in the vicinity of the arena, means Portland CANNOT host it.

That’s an impediment, but seriously — it’s just the easy excuse for the league and the team. The simple fact is, the Blazers quit bidding for the game years ago. They really haven’t wanted it. Many NBA teams have no interest in staging the game. It is a major pain in the backside.

I don’t think the Blazers have had any interest in messing around with all the details and distractions that the All-Star Weekend can bring to a franchise. The only entity that really benefits from the event is the city itself, with all the visitors and attention in can bring to a community.

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There are two real reasons for a team to chase that game. The first is that you’re having trouble selling season tickets and you need the game to spark interest in your NBA team. You can even include tickets to the game or the Saturday circus of events as part of a season-ticket package. This reason is much less common than it used to be, mainly because the hosting teams just don’t get all that many tickets anymore. The league sucks most of them up for its bigwigs and VIPs.

The best reason to want the game now is that it’s major leverage in your community. If you need some juice with the mayor or city council in getting a new arena built or renovated, you can promise the All-Star Game — and often the local political hacks will fall all over themselves to help you. The game does bring major revenue into town and also brings plenty of attention to a community.

For politicians, it doesn’t get any better than that.

OK, so let’s fast-forward to our situation in Portland. Right now in the Rose Quarter, three different groups are trying to win the right to develop the area — including the Trail Blazers’ Jumptown proposal. The basketball team is the favorite in the process, by the way. The Blazers usually get what they want around here, as all of us who wanted to see Memorial Coliseum turned into a showplace for a beautiful minor-league baseball stadium know by now.

But if you’re the City Council and the mayor’s office, the least you can do is extract a commitment from the Trail Blazers that they’ll do ALL they can to get an All-Star Game in Portland in return for the rights to developing Jumptown. It would be a nice way to open that neighborhood when and if it ever does get built.

And honestly, hotel rooms or not — and with all the damn trolleys and trains running around this town, our hotels are all accessible from the Rose Quarter — this town DESERVES an NBA All-Star Game. And the Blazers damn well ought to start bidding for it again.

The league owes us one and so does the team. I cannot believe our “city fathers” — and in the case of Portland even using that old term is pretty hilarious — haven’t pressured the team to make it happen by now. Well, I CAN believe it because the level of naivete around City Hall when it comes to sports has never been higher.

But the mayor, city council and everyone else in a position to have a say about developing that Rose Quarter area should make sure they do all they can to get past the BS and hold the Trail Blazers accountable for bringing the game here.

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