Portland State's Stott Center is a worthwhile investment
Author: The Oregonian Editorial Board
Posted: March 12, 2013

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Stott Center East End View
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This conceptual rendering shows how a remade Stott Center might look from the Park Blocks. The building would retain its original footprint but would rise high above its current cramped profile.

Portland State's largest special-events space, the ballroom in the Smith Memorial Union, can accommodate about 500 people.Its gymnasium, with a capacity of about 1,500, is smaller than some high school gyms in the Portland metro area. Classrooms in the Peter W. Stott Center, which houses the gym, leak when it rains.

University officials hope to fix all those problems with one $44 million project to expand and remake the Stott Center. They plan to raise $20 million from donors, and already have pledges for $9.85 million. Oregon Health & Science University, which would use the facility for special events, has pledged to contribute $1 million. PSU wants the state to issue bonds for the other $24 million.

The proposal makes sense in many ways. It fosters cooperation between two universities and the private sector. It meets needs of the schools and the community. It promises to create something PSU lacks -- a landmark building that draws nonstudents to the campus.

"This is probably the most transformational project we could do at Portland State," said Peter Stott, the Portland investor and PSU donor for whom the building is named.

Unfortunately for PSU, the state budget has more holes than the Stott Center roof. And every public college has buildings that need to be repaired, replaced or created.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has recommended that the Legislature generate $172 million in bond proceeds for university and community college building projects in the coming budget cycle. The Stott Center was among projects that just missed the cut.

Competition for bond money and for education dollars is intense, but the Legislature should find a way to allocate money for what would be dubbed the Stott Educational Center and Viking Pavilion. While using bond proceeds to fund grants and scholarships might be an easier political sell, students need somewhere to study and attend class without getting wet.

The Stott Center expansion would increase the number of classrooms in the building from 11 to 15 while also increasing the size of the rooms and adding technology. Beyond that, it would create badly needed space for students to meet and study -- a crucial service at a school where 75 percent of students live more than a mile from campus.

The academic payoff alone justifies investment, but it's the Viking Pavilion part of the project that has the potential to increase the university's connection with the community. It would provide a nicer and much larger home -- seating capacity of 4,800 -- for Portland State basketball and volleyball teams.

More importantly, the pavilion also could be used for community events -- filling a niche downtown between the 20,000-seat Rose Garden and 3,000-seat Keller Auditorium. The existing gym would remain and be updated, providing another meeting space. The pavilion and adjacent open spaces also would provide an adequate site for job fairs, which currently have to be jammed into the Smith Memorial Student Union ballroom.

The Stott Center rooms are used, among other things, for foreign language classes. But you don't need a translator to see that this project makes sense.