The Portland Trail Blazers announced an agreement Tuesday with a regional health and dental plan provider to change the name of the Rose Garden arena to the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter.
Moda Health, an Oregon-based company that also provides plans in Washington and Alaska, finalized a 10-year arena naming rights deal with the Blazers on Monday. Comcast Sportsnet Northwest reported that the price was “up to $4 million annually,” but neither the team nor Moda Health would confirm that number.
During a joint press conference held at the center’s south atrium, team president Chris McGowan and Moda Health president Dr. William Johnson hailed the agreement as a first step in developing the home of the Blazers into an entertainment epicenter of Portland.
“We’re going to put a lot of time and energy into livening up the Rose Quarter,” McGowan said, “and making it the cultural hub that it should be for arts and entertainment in this region.”
While the old name goes away, McGowan said that the future Moda Center logo will incorporate a rose “as a salute to the city of Portland” — as requested by team owner Paul Allen. Besides the name change and new look, Blazer fans should notice differences at the center by the time doors open for the Sept. 2 home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. McGowan described a “phase one” that will enhance the game-night experience.
For instance, plans have been put into place to redesign the fountains outside the south entrance with LED lights and offer more regionally influenced food and beverage options inside the arena. Over time, the goal will be to build restaurants and retail shops at the campus surrounding the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter.
“We’re going to develop a model that works best for Portland and the Northwest community,” Johnson said. “To make this the heart of the city, we have to revamp that and really bring that to life.”
On a smaller scale, the Moda Center model appears to align with the vision of the AEG-operated L.A. Live in Los Angeles. McGowan, the former chief operating officer of AEG Sports, was around during the expansion of L.A. Live — the around-the-clock sports and entertainment hub in downtown Los Angeles.
“If we can, that’s an absolute home run,” McGowan said about mirroring the L.A. Live venue. “That’s going to take a ton of work and, like I said, at the very least we have to figure out how to make this place come alive on game and event nights. Then worry about the bigger picture and the bigger concepts if we can accomplish that goal.
“I’m not prepared to commit that we can do something on the scale of L.A. Live. That would be the ultimate goal, but we would have a lot of work to get there.”
Named by Paul Allen, the Rose Garden arena opened in 1995. As the naming-rights era bloomed and companies brought the rights to places such as the Pepsi Center (Denver) and Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City), the Rose Garden stood out as one of the last bastions for the hometown name.
However when McGowan joined the Blazers in October, he highlighted the selling of the Rose Garden name as a top organizational goal.
“I think when you do deals like this and your business is more healthy, you have the ability to go address issues,” McGowan said, referring to enhanced entertainment options at the arena. “When you don’t have a big deal, it becomes harder to.”
Johnson said the Blazers reached out to Moda Health and the two sides had at least four meetings over the summer. Several weeks ago, a report surfaced that the Blazers had reached a deal with Moda Health for $4.2 million annually but the Blazers issued a statement that “the report is erroneous” while specifically denying that an agreement had been signed.
Thursday, McGowan told The Columbian that three companies remained on the short list for naming rights. However after the Tuesday morning press conference, McGowan detailed a process of drawn-out talks with only one, Moda Health.
“We had a bunch of stuff we were still negotiating,” McGowan said. “It was really the last two weeks that was pretty nonstop. I was just not comfortable confirming anything because it could have fallen apart.”