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My View: Use stadium funding as model for HQ hotel

Jeld-Wen Field work is a victory for public-private partnerships


Last fall, thousands of soccer fans streamed into Jeld-Wen Field first to watch the Portland Thorns in their National Women’s Soccer League championship bid and again to watch the Portland Timbers take on Real Salt Lake in the Major League Soccer playoffs.

More than 20,000 people stood in the cold to cheer and experience what has become one of Portland’s biggest draws. You could hear their enthusiasm halfway across town. I thought I might be able to hear them from my home in

Hillsboro.

This year, Jeld-Wen Field will host the MLS All-Star game, a huge win for a city with only a three-year-old major league team. But perhaps more importantly, the game will bring with it players and fans from across the country to stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants and shop at our small businesses. Visitors will get to experience all of what Portland has to offer, not just the “House of Pane.”

All of this is possible because of a partnership that brought private investors and civic leaders together to renew the old stadium in Southwest Portland. The city agreed to pay for a portion of the project upfront but is being repaid by ticket taxes and other revenues received at the stadium and the city’s spectator facilities. In other words,

the users of the spectator facilities pay for it.

Soccer isn’t the only thing bringing people to Portland. Our nationally renowned food scene, outdoor recreation opportunities and vibrant culture help us land, on average, 30 conventions per year, bringing thousands of visitors and millions of dollars here.

The fact that most of our convention business comes when our local businesses need it most, in the rainy months, is especially important. While the Oregon Convention Center has long been a desired destination for event organizers nationally, it has always lacked an anchor hotel to land the most lucrative conventions.

Two years ago, Metro embarked on a project to build a hotel next to the convention center. To attract more conventions, this hotel needs to be in a certain spot, of a certain size and surrender the ability to book up nearly all rooms at once for conventions. The private sector would not build this hotel on its own.

This is where the public comes in. Just like Jeld-Wen Field, the public, via Metro, will provide backing to support a construction loan for the hotel and the public will be repaid by user fees in the form of an already existing hotel room tax on guests at the hotel. And like Jeld-Wen Field, private investors will pay for the majority of the hotel’s costs, as well as own and operate it. The best part is that we can build a hotel, bring more visitors to Portland and give the bill to people who don’t live here.

Cultural facilities like the Oregon Convention Center and Jeld-Wen Field bring visitors and serious money to our local businesses. They allow us to share our cuisine, countryside and culture with a broad audience. They allow us to tell our story.

I am certain there is an army of people willing to say the city of Portland made the right choice by investing in the Timbers. I say we cheer on Portland once again and move forward with a convention center hotel.

Tom Hughes, former Hillsboro mayor, is president of the Metro Council.