Blazers President: “Moda Center will take us to the future.”
Goodbye, Rose Garden. Hello, Moda Center.
On Tuesday morning, the Portland Trail Blazers introduced their corporate sponsors from Moda Health and the new name of the basketball arena, Moda Center at the Rose Quarter.
“From day one, we got a great vibe when we sat down,” Blazers president Chris McGowan said about the health and dental insurance provider based in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.
Here are more remarks and nuggets from McGowan and Moda Health president Dr. William Johnson:
After an opening statement about the future goals of the Moda Center then thanking various people who worked behind the scenes to get the deal done, McGown appealed directly to Blazers fans.
When public-address announcer Mark Mason would bellow: “You’re the sixth man, and the Rose Garden is OUR house!” a distinct and unified roar filled the house. Though the team has long searched for a naming-rights partner, the Rose Garden remained as a dying breed – a professional sports arena that reflected the community and not a corporate sponsor.
So, judging from his comments, McGowan tried to curb the expected hesitance and downright anger from the fan base about the name change.
“Lastly, I’d like to talk to our fans. These are the types of deals that you have to do as an organization to raise your organization to another level. And I want the fans know because of this deal – the benefits of this deal – we’re going to be able to invest back into our organization a lot of things that are going to directly impact our fans,” McGowan said.
Those “benefits” include fan experience, facility improvement and “even goes down to the court that helps us be a more competitive basketball team,” McGowan explained.
“So I want the fans to know that,” McGowan continued. “The Rose Garden is definitely not going away. It’s definitely going to be a part of our history and heritage and everyone in our organization realizes that. … The Rose Garden put us on the map. The Moda Center will take us to the future.”
Johnson detailed the genesis of the deal that started with dubiousness but finished in partnership. According to Johnson, the Blazers approached Moda Health to discuss “opportunities.”
“We already have seats here,” Johnson said, referring to his first reaction to the request. “Then the Blazers brought up naming rights for the facility.”
“At that point, we said, ‘OK, this is interesting, but that’s not what we do, that’s not what we’re interested in.’”
Moda Health has not exactly been a player in the sports world. Although the company once ran advertising inside the Rose Garden and sponsored an Athlete of the Game/Match award for the Oregon School Activities Association – which is still named after its former title, ‘ODS,’ – Moda Health has not been connected with high-profile sports.
However, Johnson said after multiple meetings, Moda Health came around as both companies shared the vision of “re-engaging the community and expanding.”
From owning a few luxury seats to owning the name of the arena…
“That’s a big leap,” Johnson said, laughing.
Soon, all signage of “Rose Garden” will be removed from Rose Quarter campus. McGowan estimated that the total transformation will be completed by Dec. 1. By then, McGowan would have been on the job for only 14 months. However, the naming-rights process started early in his tenure.
Since his introduction as team president, McGowan labeled it as a high priority – one that he especially championed.
“We discussed it. Paul (Allen) hires me to make those decisions and certainly he was involved and blessed the deal. But I studied the sports industry. Even when I was in L.A., I looked at this as an opportunity for a great naming rights partnership,” McGowan said. “I came in here knowing, there’s not a lot of opportunities like this out there. We’re an entertainment company, great arena, great basketball team, great fan base. Of course, I’m going to come in and take advantage of good opportunities.”