Ron Carr Testimony - Never to Forget

My name is Ronald Carr, and I am a Navy veteran of the Viet Nam war, and a retired Coast Guard officer.


Last time I had the privilege to speak here, I told the story of how when I came back from Viet Nam, it wasn’t until 15 years later that anyone said “thank you” for my service.  My tears at that moment expressed how grateful I was for the acknowledgment that was given to me, and others on that day.


It is my belief that most service men and women don’t want much except to serve their country and be recognized for that service. As military personnel, we don’t get caught up in the politics of why we have to serve, where we are asked to serve, or where we’re asked to fight, and sometimes where we’re asked to die. We willingly serve the greatest country in the world, for our families, for our friends, and pretty much for the American way of life. We understand the Freedom that America provides its citizens, as well as visitors that come to this country.  We stand up for the down trodden and fight against evil in the world. It is naïve to think this service can all be done from the safety and comfort of our homes, our own safe communities.  We know and understand that is not realistic.


The country singer, Toby Keith, wrote a song called “American Soldier”, and in the chorus he sings: “I will always do my duty, no matter what the price…I’ve counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice. Oh, and I don’t want to die for you, but if dying’s asked of me, I’ll bear that cross with honor, cause freedom don’t come FREE. I’m an American Soldier.” That sentiment represents all service members and branches.


So, sometimes we are asked to go places around the world and be put in harm’s way, over there, so we don’t have to be in harm’s way here, and so the many people who lay down at night to rest in this blessed country, can do so with peace of mind. If you ask just about any military person, I believe they will tell you they do not consider themselves heroes. They are just doing their job the best they can, to keep this country safe.


If I were to think of the one thing that we would like…. that would be “to be remembered.,” …..that our service and sacrifices would not be forgotten….that everyone, including future generations would understand and remember what it has taken through the years to enjoy the freedoms we take for granted every day. We just want to know that what we have done to serve had value, and that our time on this earth has meaning. It certainly does to those who are closest to us, but it should also be that way for everyone else that gets to live in this free country.


To my point: One way to show appreciation to all those who have served and sacrificed through the years, is by preserving those iconic structures and symbols that pay homage to the greatness of our country and to the warriors who have given so much. Our building is the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, situated in the heart of our beautiful community, and erected over 50 years ago to honor our war veterans. I’ll just address what it means to those it honors. Yes, much like our flag, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum has seen years of service, and yes, she is showing wear and tear and in need of some attention. But, even as you stand outside and look at her today, she is beautiful. She is an iconic monument to so many, representing the best of our community in so many ways, and she has a place in history right where she is. She needs work, but means so much to our Veterans, their families, and all those who are grateful for what this structure stands for. Once she receives the attention she needs, she will continue to stand well into the future as a beacon of freedom to remind us all what should be most important in our lives… and that the spirit of freedom that exists in our people, and the lengths they’ve gone to, and the sacrifices they have made will continue to be honored, and remembered.


Marilyn Clint Testimony

In 1961, the Rose Festival was one of the stake-holders celebrating the opening of Portland's Memorial Coliseum. That year, six Rose Festival events used the Coliseum venue, including the Queen's Coronation, the Queen's Ball, four LaCrosse games and, most notably, the Rose Festival's most iconic event, the Grand Floral Parade.


The Oregonian called the Coliseum "an extraordinarily fine vantage point" from which to watch the parade, which formed outside the Coliseum and marched straight through, utilizing the large doors at either end that had been placed there for this very reason.


Now, more than 50 years later, both the Queen's Coronation and the Grand Floral Parade STILL utilize the Memorial Coliseum. It's the only major parade in the world that marches through an indoor arena. Since 1961, around a half

million people have watched the parade from their seats inside, paying prices that ranged from $2.50 in 1961 to $30.00 today. While that total is probably less the number of people who stand on the streets and watch the parade EVERY YEAR, the relevance is that the revenue from these seats is one of the most significant parts of the Grand Floral Parade budget. The arena also serves as a perfect spot to welcome from across the country and around the world, many of them seniors, in the comfort of rain-proof reserved seats.


The Coliseum parking lot has been the site of the parade telecast for decades, and the parking garages and adjacent streets serve as the perfect formation area for one of the top five parades in the U.S.


Today the Veterans Memorial Coliseum is event-central for the Rose Festival's beloved parade, and on parade-day-the largest special events day in the Pacific Northwest—the Queen's Coronation, the Grand Floral Walk and the Grand Floral Parade are all seen live inside the Coliseum by arena spectators. Many of these spectators are people from other nonprofits in Oregon, and a large percentage watch free of charge.


It's unfortunate that the experience of watching the parade is less enjoyable today, because the building itself is so badly in need of revitalization. Those bathrooms are far from state of the art. And the reader board just doesn't work anymore. For an event like ours that relishes having the curtains open on parade day, there are limited options for adding a visual element with graphics. Rose Festival staff and board members have worked closely with Coliseum management and local advocates over the years on issues ranging from construction to renovation to recognition of our veterans. We look forward to continuing that work in the future, and to continuing to showcase the City of Roses from this historic site on Portland's eastside.


Brian Libby Testimony

On behalf of the Friends of Memorial Coliseum, we applaud City Council for taking up a detailed study of the Coliseum’s physical condition and its finances. These are the kinds of hard numbers that we should have had all along.


We know the Coliseum hosts well over 100 events a year, so it’s already a community asset despite its disrepair. But we believe that even if the study shows the building operating at a modest loss, a restoration will push it into profitability. Today examples abound of such renovation success stories, from Key Arena in Seattle to Long Beach Arena in Southern California to Lincoln Center in New York.


We also respectfully urge Council to keep in mind what can’t be quantified on a balance sheet but is equally important: the Coliseum’s cultural and civic value. It is Oregon’s most important veterans’ memorial. It’s a centerpiece of Rose Festival and the Grand Floral Parade. And there is the uniqueness of the design itself, which has untapped economic value. Veterans Memorial Coliseum is equivalent in size to four city blocks but stands on just four columns. It’s virtually the only arena in the world with a 360-degree view to the outside, through the glass.  When the curtain is open, you can look out at the Willamette River and the entire downtown skyline. It’s a breathtaking example of mid-20th century modern American architecture at its best, wide-open and full of natural light.


Portland has long aspired to be a sustainable capitol and a design capitol. Tearing down the Coliseum is discordant with these values. Great cities don’t demolish their most acclaimed, National Register-listed buildings. That’s why Memorial Coliseum isn’t just a building project to study, but a referendum on what kind of city we want to be.


For that reason, we urge Council to continue with the study but then restore the building, with the knowledge that it can be a catalyst for a broader neighborhood redevelopment. This is a chance to leverage millions in private-sector contributions while drawing from already-allocated city urban renewal funds, yet without taking away dollars from other important funding initiatives like affordable housing, health and safety or education.  That’s why organizations ranging from the Portland Business Alliance and the Oregon Sports Authority to Restore Oregon and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have already joined our coalition of citizens in calling for restoration, and why an overwhelming majority of those polled in The Oregonian this week oppose demolition.