On Wednesday, Trail Blazers team president Chris McGowan, vice president/general manager of the Rose Quarter Chris Oxley and vice president of premium seating Anthony Jones-Deberry hosted a tour at the Moda Center to show off some of the newest capital improvements of a $16 million renovation of the almost 20 year-old building. After upgrading concessions on the 100 level last year, improvements to the concourse on the club level, remodeled suites and a new bar on the 300 level overlooking the westside of Portland are currently being worked on, with the expectation being that all of the most recent upgrades will be completed in time for the 2014-15 NBA season.
“When people come to events at the Rose Quarter, we want it to be special and we feel the Rose Quarter is part of that experience,” said McGowan. “Maybe a year and a half ago, when the fountain wasn’t working, the lighting wasn’t on the arena, the landscaping wasn’t what we would like it to be and we didn’t have a place like Dr. Jack’s to go to, people were just kind of walking over the Rose Quarter, coming in and watching an event. We think we can do better than that. With all the stuff you’ve seen on the Rose Quarter, people can come a little bit earlier and enjoy their time coming to an event or a concert. And then afterward, if they want to let traffic die down or wait for a train, you have a place to go to as well. We’re extending that event experience for everyone who comes to the Rose Quarter.”
The club level, after years of serving an all-you-can-eat buffet to club level ticket holders, will now function more like a standard concourse, with concession stands similar to those on the 100 level.
“We were an all-inclusive club environment going on eight years,” said Oxley. “It wasn’t, I think, the right business-to-business environment that we were looking for. To our club level constituency, it didn’t necessarily play into the premium level experience. What was up here before was all-inclusive, chef’s table buffet-like environment. Those are going away specifically to go back to a premium concession environment where club level guests will have store value on their ticket essentially.”
Now, those who purchase club level tickets will receive a $30 credit per game which can be used to purchase concessions at Bunk, The Nook, Cha! Cha! Cha!, Salt & Straw and Hot Stone on the club level or any of the other concession stands throughout the Moda Center. The credit can also be used to purchase merchandise at any of the fan shops on the concourse.
“We’re reinventing the culinary experience in its entirety for our premium seat holders, adding six new high-end concession locations up on the club level,” said Oxley. “We’re going away from an all-inclusive environment on the club level to a premium concession environment that has more point of sale, more variety, more options.”
“We had Bunk sandwiches up on the 300 level last year. It was a real destination, I think, for people all through the building. We’re trying to get people to move around the concourses and different levels a lot more than they have in the past. This is a great opportunity, I think, to the exclusivity of the club level for Bunk Sandwiches to have a really marque location here. This was a general concession stand before.” — Chris Oxley, VP/GM of the Rose Quarter
“We’re really looking forward to bringing Cha! Cha! Cha! into the Moda Center. This is their first introduction into the building. Mexican, obviously, is a great seller, particularly when you have a lot of diversity. A good Mexican concept is ideal for us as a location. A very approachable location.” — Chris Oxley, VP/GM of the Rose Quarter
“Italian as a type of food was called out within a club level survey of that we did as to what is missing the most (from the club level). So we’ve designed Hot Stone. We’ll be doing pizza ,we’ll be doing baked ziti. On one side you’ll have all the hot food and point of sale, then on the left side we’ll do Italian sodas, cappuccinos and tiramisu. So it’s going to be a full-service Italian location for the club level.” — Chris Oxley, VP/GM of the Rose Quarter
“Junction 5 is probably the closest ode to a traditional location that we’ll have on this level. The top sellers in a food and beverage environment are always going to be hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, pretzels, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t provide those offerings. But it will be a unique twist in terms of Junction 5, where there will be a fully developed condiment location. So if you have the ability to be creative with your food, you’re going to have that at Junction 5.” — Chris Oxley, VP/GM of the Rose Quarter
As a part of the improvements, all of the Moda Center’s suites will be completely remodeled, with 21 of the arena’s private suites this year and 10 more next year, and the construction of never-before-available “Studio Suites” and a premium “365 Studio.”
“It’s a double suite (pictured above), which is something that we’re contemplating doing as well. From a capacity perspective, this size works when you want to entertain here. I think the look and feel is great, the lighting is great, it feels modern, it’s open. I think one of the problems if you look at our older suites and what we’re doing with the executive suites, people want an open feel where they can stand up, mingle at a high table, have some food, have a cocktail while they’re watching the game as well. So I really feel good about how we’ve opened these suites up.” — Chris McGowan, Trail Blazers president and CEO
“The whole point was to not only modernize the suites but also we had to create some differentiation amongst our suites sizes. Basically, our suite product was essentially all the same. We had the party suite, which can hold 100-plus people, but the other 66 suites that we had were all the exact same, they all had the exact same look, the exact same feel. The truth of the matter is that as we a number of clients, not only our executive suite clients who have suites on longterm leases, but also our nightly suite rentals, they have varying needs in regards to size and the number of people they want to entertain at a given moment. So what we’ve done is created a new product.” — Anthony Jones-Deberry, VP of premium seating
“This is the first renovation to the exterior of the Moda Center in it’s history,” said Oxley. “We’ve coined it “The Pines.” This is an ode to our 300 level demographic and something we’re really excited about offering to the folks who sit in the upper deck. This used to be an outdoor smoking area, and now we’re in a position to offer this really unique bar venue with a food component associated with it as well with views of the city that are not found anywhere else from the eastside.”
Everybody is really excited about this opportunity. It was an underutilized space for many years. It overlooks the Essential Forces fountain, Dr. Jack’s, the city, Broadway Bridge and downtown. Really a unique opportunity. I think we’ll have people coming from the 100 level just to check out the space. I think that’s what makes it so cool is we’ve created an environment that’s going to be really special for these folks. — Chris Oxley, VP/GM of the Rose Quarter
“A really unique environment. We’ve made a very conscious engagement to keep it bright and alive and open and create these floor-to-ceiling glass views of not only downstairs in the Rose Quarter but pretty much all of downtown. At night, truly spectacular and unmatched in terms of views from this side of town.” — Chris Oxley, VP/GM of the Rose Quarter
UPDATE: The team has officially announced that they have matched the Nets’ offer sheet to Allen Crabbe, though a “formal announcement” and Crabbe actually signing the contract will not occur until later in the week.
After finishing up their pursuit of new free agents, the Trail Blazers have wasted little time in turning their attention to the free agents on their own roster. After reportedly signing restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard to a four-year deal, the Trail Blazers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, have matched the four-year, $75 million offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets tendered to third-year guard/forward Allen Crabbe, ensuring that the former Cal Bear will be back in Portland next season…
The Portland Trail Blazers have matched Allen Crabbe’s four-year, $75M offer sheet with Brooklyn, league source tells @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
Nets bid on Crabbe has been thwarted — and Crabbe returns to Blazers on four-year, $75M contract. Now, Nets wait on Tyler Johnson sheet.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
The message out of Portland ownership and management is clear: Blazers trying to win this year and beyond — loading up on this roster.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
As is often the case when it comes to restricted free agents, the Nets offer to Crabbe, who has averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game through three season, was considerably larger than many assumed the 6-6 wing would receive in an effort to discourage the Trail Blazers from matching. And after the Trail Blazers signed free agent guard/forward Evan Turner to a four-year deal, some assumed that combined with the size of the Nets offer might result in Trail Blazers letting Crabbe walk.
But that would not be the case. Crabbe has been a favorite of the front office and coaching staff since the team acquired former Pac-12 Player of the Year via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012 Draft. And though he played sparingly in his first two seasons, he saw his minutes increase dramatically in 2015-16, as he appeared in 81 games and responded with averages of 10.8 points on 44 percent shooting and 39 percent shooting from three, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists while serving as one of the team’s best perimeter defenders.
There were rumors that outside of the money and years, Crabbe, who has typically come off the bench for the Trail Blazers, was intrigued by the opportunity to start and play a larger role with the Nets. But for his part, Crabbe seemed more than satisfied that he would be returning to Portland…
— Allen Crabbe (@allencrabbe) July 10, 2016
With Crabbe now signed, forward Maurice Harkless is the last Blazer still available on the free agent market. Like Crabbe, Harkless is a restricted free agent, which gives the Trail Blazers the right to match any offer he receives from another team. It is also possible for the Trail Blazers to sign Harkless even if he doesn’t receive an offer sheet from another team, as they have reportedly did Sunday with restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard.
UPDATE: The team has officially announce that they have signed Meyers Leonard to a new contract. From the press release…
“Meyers is a core member of our organization and continues to show the promise and potential we anticipated when we drafted him,” said Olshey.
Leonard averaged career-highs with 8.4 points (44.8% FG, 37.7% 3-PT76.1% FT), 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 21.9 minutes in 61 games (10 starts) in 2015-16. He missed the final 14 games of the regular season due to an injured left shoulder.
“Today is a day which is hard to describe. I’m overcome with happiness and joy,” said Leonard. “I’m thankful for the people who have remained loyal and loving in my life. This is the product of a lot of hard work and time. I feel like I have found a new gear mentally and physically and really am excited for the next four years. The future is going to be bright with this team.”
The Trail Blazers and Meyers Leonard sat down at the negotiating table prior to the start of the 2015-16 season in an effort to hammer out a new contract in an effort to keep the 7-1 power forward from hitting the (restricted) free agent market. Despite mutual interest, the two sides were unable to strike a deal, though considering the Trail Blazers had the right to match any offer Leonard received as a free agent, it always seemed likely he’d be back even if terms on an extension couldn’t be reached.
As it turns out, an offer sheet from another team wasn’t needed for both sides to ultimately come to an agreement.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Leonard and the Trail Blazers have agreed on a new four-year deal worth $41 million…
Leonard, a restricted free agent, has built his value as a stretch four with an ability to spread the floor and deliver a presence on the defensive boards.
Leonard is part of a core expected to compete for 50 victories in the Western Conference this season.
Leonard, 24, missed the final 20 regular-season games with a left shoulder surgery in 2015-16, but has shown steady improvement in the past two years after being selected at No. 11 overall in the 2012 NBA draft.
The reported four-year deal is roughly the same as the offer the Trail Blazers reportedly extended to Leonard prior to the start of the 2015-16 season. At the time, it was reasonable to assume Leonard might receive a larger offer from another team, as his combination of size, athleticism and shooting are highly sought after in today’s NBA. But missing the final 20 games of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder, not to mention the widely-held assumption that the Blazers would match any reasonable offer for Leonard, likely cooled interest from other teams. And though he didn’t say it explicitly, it always seemed as though Leonard’s preference was to continue his career in Portland after being selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th overall pick of the 2012 Draft.
“I was drafted here, I’ve been with Terry (Stotts) the entire time, Neil (Olshey) obviously drafted me, being here with now our franchise player Damian (Lillard),” said Leonard back in March. “So the future is bright here and I truly hope that I can be a big part of it.”
Leonard returns to a big man rotation that features Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Festus Ezeli, who signed with Portland as a free agent on Friday.
While Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said the team is done chasing new free agents for the year, whether restricted free agents Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe, who received an offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets worth reportedly $75 million over four years on Thursday, return to Portland next season is still to be determined. The team has until 9 pm Sunday night to decide whether or not to match the offer made to Crabbe.
Typically in NBA free agency, it’s the duty of the team to woo the player they’re interested in signing. Seeing as how there are only so many free agents to go around every year, the competition between teams to acquire their preferred players can often times be intense. The Clippers all but locking center DeAndre Jordan in a house last year in order to prevent him from signing with the Mavericks being the most recent example of the lengths teams will go to in order to obtain or retain their respective free agent targets.
But some free agents are easier to convince than others. And sometimes, they don’t need any convincing. Such was the case with center Festus Ezeli, who signed a two-year deal reported to be worth $18 million, widely considered a ridiculous bargain in the 2016 free agent market, Thursday night. While the interest between Ezeli and the Trail Blazers was obviously mutual — shoring up the team’s interior defense was one of the main goals going into the offseason — it sounds like in this case, it was the player who initiated the negotiations, something that is a rarity in the era in which some free agents seem to relish the opportunity to be wined and dined by teams desperate to secure their services.
“My agent contacted and I said ‘I want to be a part of this franchise’ because, like I said, I see a bright future of this team,” said Ezeli Friday morning during his introductory press conference at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin. “It doesn’t come very often when you have such talented guards like CJ (McCollum) and Damian (Lillard) and such a complete team with everybody else. I know Al-Farouq (Aminu) just from playing with Nigeria, being around with the African scene, the African community works, I’ve known him through that. But I know that this team is full of high character guys and that’s a great start in itself, work ethic and all those things. I see good things happening here, I want to be a part of it.”
Having played for the Golden State Warriors during his first three seasons after being selected with the 30th overall pick of the 2012 Draft, Ezeli knows a little something about what a team needs to be successful. And having matched up against the Trail Blazers on numerous occasions, the most recent being the series between his former and current teams during the 2016 Western Conference playoffs, and seeing how they performed, competed and the way they were supported, Ezeli entered his own free agency thinking Portland might be the place for him.
“First of all, this organization is first class,” said Ezeli. “We played them in the playoffs so I’m pretty familiar with them playing in the West as well. I got to see a lot about the team’s character in those moments in battle on the court and that’s where you get to know the other team’s strengths and weaknesses. Their chemistry was something I really admired on the court. Second thing, the fans. I noticed when we came out here the fans were unbelievable. We take pride in our fans and as a basketball player you love your fans so when I saw that, saw the energy, I wanted to be a part of that. Great team, great coach, great fans. What more could you ask for from an organization?”
For the Trail Blazers, a team that has historically had a difficult time luring free agents, acquiring a player so enthusiastic about coming to Portland must have been a welcomed surprise, but it’s not as if a willingness to sign on was enough. There still had to be a need on the roster, which was luckily for both Ezeli and the Trail Blazers.
“He’s coming from a very good defensive system in Golden State,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “His defensive rating in Golden State on an exceptional defensive team was outstanding, one of the best on the team. So he’s going to have an impact for our team, whether it’s in pick-and-roll, whether it’s defensive rebounding, whether it’s altering shots at the rim. He’s athletic, he has a long wingspan. In today’s NBA, particularly with the plan of playing Farouq (Aminu) more at four, he’s going to give us the ability to play a smaller lineup and still have a defensive component to it… I think his presence in the paint on the offensive end is going to cause problems as well. Team’s won’t be able to switch pick-and-rolls. So I think he’s going to have a positive impact on both ends of the court.”
Much like the rest of Portland’s roster, Ezeli still has room to grow, especially considering he didn’t even pick up basketball until he was well into his teens. And he has had surgeries on both knees in the last two years, which is likely to give some pause (especially considering the history of the franchise) despite Ezeli saying he’s “100 percent healthy and ready to go.” But to acquire a player with Ezeli’s experience and skill set on a great value contract who also seems legitimately excited to play in Portland seems like an unmitigated success.
“I have to go home and kind of sit with my family and try to figure some things out, decompress a little bit, but I’m excited,” said Ezeli. “I love this city, I love the people so far and I hear there’s a lot of great food over here, so I can’t wait to get to that. I’ll be back later this summer, I’ve got to go figure out the whole moving situation, but I’m excited.”