Anonymous $5M gift ignites Portland State Arena plan

A $5 million anonymous gift has kick-started a newly unveiled effort to renovate Portland State University's basketball arena.

The $44 million plan calls for a near down-to-the-studs remodel of the Peter W. Stott Center, the current home of the Portland State men's and women's basketball teams.

As subscribers can read in today's issue of the Business Journal, Portland State leaders want to build a glass-enclosed arena that faces the Park Blocks and gives pedestrians a look at the action inside the building. The current basketball court, on the other end of the building, would remain as a practice facility.

The renovated building would also serve as a "knowledge commons," said Portland State President Wim Wiewel.

Roughly 70 percent of the building's space would be dedicated to classrooms and informal meeting space for students, faculty and outside groups.

Wiewel said the project is part of Portland State's transformation from a commuter school to an "anchor institution" that provides meeting space for civic and cultural groups, a model that's increasingly popular with urban universities.

The $44 million project would be funded by $24 million in state bonds and $20 million in private donations. The private fundraising effort, led by Peter Stott, has already raised $8.1 million. State lawmakers will consider the request for bond funding next year.

The project ranks No. 6 on a list of 28 capital projects submitted to Gov. John Kitzhaber for inclusion in the state's next budget. Kitzhaber's proposed budget, scheduled for release in December, will give the first indication of whether the project will get bond funding.

If bond funding is approved, construction could begin in January 2014 and finish in November 2015.