Blazers Building Exclusive Club

Former housekeeping office at Moda Center will be dedicated space for courtside seat holders

  • by Don Muret
  • Published: February 6, 2018

The new courtside club at Moda Center will offer a change from the arena's other, more contemporary club spaces.  (Portland Trail Blazers)

The NBA's Portland Trail Blazers are building an exclusive new courtside club to serve the roughly 150 fans sitting in the first row at Moda Center.

Construction on the $1 million retrofit started in November and should be completed by the end of February, said Chris Oxley, the Blazers' senior vice president of venue operations.

"There's a good push to get it completed, and we feel good it will open with the last stretch of the season intact," Oxley said.

For those season-ticket holders paying more than $1,000 a game to put their feet on the court, it's a top-shelf amenity they did not previously enjoy for Blazers games. They had access to other clubs at Moda Center, which opened in 1995, but no space to call their own, he said. There are no additional fees to access the courtside club.

"We don't have bunker suites, and this was an opportunity to do something special for them," Oxley said.

The redeveloped space, measured at 1,335 square feet, is in the arena's southeast corner at event level, opposite stage end. It's an enclosed room and has no views to the court. The club replaces an old housekeeping office, which has been relocated elsewhere at that level, Oxley said.

GBD Architects, the Portland firm responsible for designing previous arena upgrades such as the Studio Suites and The Pines, a bar in the upper deck, did the work on the courtside club. The look and feel is of a cocktail lounge with a speakeasy vibe. The centerpiece is a barrel ceiling, and the room features brass and wood finishes and furniture with a rich burgundy color.

"It's not as contemporary-looking as some of the other spaces we've built over the past few years," Oxley said. "It's warm and comfortable with ambient lighting, a stark difference from our other clubs, which was intentional. We wanted it to stand out. It gives those fans a chance to unwind from the excitement of the game."

The club is to be branded for a sponsor, pending a naming-rights deal, Oxley said.

It will open 90 minutes before tipoff and stay open for about an hour after the game, and could also operate for concerts. It's close to the area reserved for performers, and there's a chance it could be reserved for the act's use, depending on the show, but no decision has been made, Oxley said.

Just across an outdoor concourse from the arena, the Blazers are in the early stages of developing a new whiskey lounge in a small building that used to contain a Widmer Brothers microbrewery. Craft whiskeys are a hot trend in Portland, and the Blazers want to capitalize by offering another pregame destination for their fans, Oxley said.

The space sits next to Dr. Jack's, a popular sports bistro named for Jack Ramsay, the late Blazers coach and longtime broadcaster who led the team to the 1977 NBA championship.

Separately, the Blazers hired OVG Global Partnerships to help the team sign a jersey sponsor, said Chris McGowan, the team's president and CEO (OVG Global Partnerships is a division of Oak View Group, which also owns VenuesNow). The agreement came as a result of the Arena Alliance, a group of more than 25 big league buildings that partner with OVG to book concerts at their facilities. Moda Center is part of the alliance. In addition, McGowan has a strong relationship with Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke through their 17 years working together at AEG.

"We had a deal for a jersey sponsor and at the last minute it went south and went away … after there was a management transition within that company," McGowan said. "So, we took a step back to redevelop our strategy and take a slower approach to it. We were in talks with OVG about sponsorships after they got into that business. We decided to give this a try."

OVG Global Partnerships President Dan Griffis and Ryan Brach, the group's vice president, are taking the lead in signing a jersey sponsor. Brach negotiated the Western Union jersey sponsorship for the Denver Nuggets when he worked for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. The Blazers hope to get a deal signed for next season, McGowan said.

OVG officials have a handful of meetings scheduled later this month when the NBA All-Star Game will be in Los Angeles.

Outside of facility naming rights, the jersey patch is among the most valuable sponsorships for an NBA team. Those deals typically run seven figures annually.

"A lot of the jersey patch deals done have been 'backyard plays' with local brands," McGowan said. "In our case, we're looking at all options [including] an international brand."

  • by Don Muret
  • Published: February 6, 2018