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News / Sports / Blazers

Blazers’ McGowan seeks to keep serving fans’ tastes

Team president has eyes on new TV deal, All-Star bid

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: February 17, 2016, 10:45pm

PORTLAND — To understand the level of attention to detail of Portland Trail Blazers president Chris McGowan, you needn’t look further than a one-of-a-kind pamphlet on his desk detailing each and every one of the food options at the Moda Center.

Personally, he’s into the “simple” foods these days. But in this fourth year in charge of the business side of the Blazers, the offerings at the arena are as complex as ever.

A seafood brand that offers locally sourced half-shell oysters and seafood as well as the growing presence of local brands such as Cha! Cha! Cha!, Bunk Sandwiches and Kure Juice are just the start, he says.

“When you go through it, you see brands that we’ve created, you see local brands,” McGowan said while working through the pamphlet he keeps to be aware of everything they have. “If you just look at the range of things you can get here, it’s incredible. And it’s been good for everyone and we will continue to push the limits. We won’t stop at oysters is what I’ll say.”

Under McGowan’s leadership, the Blazers game experience has undergone a near-complete overhaul and after years of not meeting their goals the Blazers organization is doing better than ever.

The Blazers outperforming on-court expectations has been an added bonus and they’re hearing about the love of the team from their customers.

“In general, there’s a ton of excitement,” McGowan said. “We hear a lot of positive comments from fans saying things like obviously they didn’t expect us to be this competitive, that’s always nice to hear. I hear a lot of people stop me and say this is the most fun they’ve had rooting for a team.”

The Blazers won’t stop at oysters and, although they’re meeting their business goals in terms of profit, sponsorships and season ticket renewals, McGowan wants to keep pushing.

They’ve expanded programs such as the Rip City Academy, a youth initiative to get kids to learn the game of basketball or the Blazers Fit Challenge, a cross-fit style workout that had 150 people in it’s first year which raises money for their Trail Blazers foundation.

“I can envision 750 people, the entire arena and it being about active living, fitness and raising money for our foundation,” McGowan said.

And in that quest to keep pushing there are a couple of big moments on the horizon for McGowan and his team.

The first of which are the negotiations for a new television contract. The team’s deal with Comcast expires after next season and as of now, neither side has reached an agreement.

Both sides have butted heads in the past over things such as streaming rights. The distribution and lack of carriage on satellite networks has caused headaches in the area for fans.

“It’s super important,” McGowan said of carriage on other providers. “Unfortunately we don’t control it which is a tough thing. There’s only a few companies that carry regional sports networks. You have to create a deal and a partnership with those companies. It’s definitely a factor. It’s on our mind. It’s our end goal. It’s one of those things that we understand our fans want our games as widely distributed as possible.”

Other things such as potentially playing games abroad, either in Canada or perhaps Mexico City, are things that the team is interested in.

But the thing on the mind of most regarding the Blazers organization, especially on the heels of the All-Star game, has been their very public desire to host an NBA All-Star game.

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The possibilities of that were improved by the recent news that the 600-room Convention Center hotel will go on as planned.

However, it’s date of completion has complicated their bid for 2018 since the hotel is not expected to be done until the end of that year, according to the Portland Business Journal.

USA Today reported earlier this week that Los Angeles is a leading candidate to get the 2018 game, but that doesn’t mean that the Blazers are giving up on that goal if they don’t get it, but rather shifting their focus to the 2019 and 2020 All-Star games. The latter would be in a big year for the franchise.

“I kind of like the thought of having one in 2020, I think it’s our 50th year as a franchise and I know that hotel will be open then as well as a lot of other hotels too,” McGowan said. “I think it just adds to our chances.”

The narrative forces of a 50th anniversary for the first Portland All-Star game is a little detail, along with the hotels, they hope could push their bid over the edge.

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Columbian Trail Blazers Writer