It's hard to imagine that many people have been drawn to a Portland State basketball game or any other event at the Peter W. Stott Center by the building's brick, bunker-like façade.
"Right now what you have is a wall -- a big wall," said Françoise Aylmer, Portland State's vice president for university advancement. "It's just not friendly. It's not Portland-friendly."
The Portland State administration hopes to change that with recently unveiled plans for a dramatic $44 million makeover that would transform the dated home of Vikings athletics into a striking, multipurpose venue highlighted by a 82-foot-high glass entry facing the Park Blocks.
Tentatively dubbed "Viking Pavilion," the plans call for replacing the eastern half of the building on Southwest Hall Street with a large concourse and a three-story arena that looks onto the Park Blocks. With seating for 4,700 for sports and 5,500 for performances, the new arena would more than triple the capacity of the current facility (1,500). The plans would leave the current gym intact at the rear of the facility and add a substantial amount of space for students, academics and physical education.
The plans, designed by Portland-based ZGF Architects LLP, will be financed by private funding, deferred maintenance funds and revenue bonds. The project is separate from a proposal by the Portland Development Commission to designate PSU and the surrounding 144 acres in lower downtown as an education urban renewal area. The arena project would not receive related revenues if the urban renewal area is approved by Portland city officials.
The administration has launched a campaign to raise $22 million toward the total cost and hopes to move forward with an official proposal before the 2013 legislative session.
Athletic director Torre Chisholm emphasized that the new building would be more than a new home for Portland State sports.
"President (Wim) Wiewel has identified the need for this type of facility, not really just as an athletic venue but as an important facility for the entire campus that will continue PSU's growth pattern," he said. "This puts this new dynamic face out there (on the Park Blocks). ... It kind of makes it like an anchor to the south end of the Park Blocks."
Chisholm said Vikings athletics would constitute only 40 of the 125 annual events, with the rest consisting of concerts, trade shows, amateur athletics and other community events.
The earliest groundbreaking would be in 2014, Chisholm said, and the rear gym would remain open during the estimated 18 months of construction, negating the need to relocate PSU's basketball and volleyball teams.
Although it may be hard to watch a building bearing his name get torn down, donor and Viking Pavilion Campaign fund chairman Peter W. Stott is excited about the vision.
"The Viking Pavilion will be an exciting, versatile addition to the Portland cityscape," he said. "This Portland State facility will showcase the entire campus and elevate the community."
Aylmer said the plan's appeal was obvious.
"I'm Parisian, so something that's beautiful and also useful, that makes perfect sense to me," she said.