The NBA's best players and the cash-toting visitors who follow them will again bypass Portland this weekend.
The league has never awarded the Trail Blazers—who entered the NBA in 1970—its annual All-Star Game, which officials say attracts 25,000 visitors, a $30 million boost for the local economy and a TV audience in 210 countries.
No franchise other than Boston in the 30-team NBA has gone longer than Portland without the premier midseason game, and at least the Celtics had it in 1964. (The longest all-star drought in hockey is 28 years for Buffalo; in baseball, it's 40 years for St. Louis.) The host city for this Sunday's NBA All-Star game, Houston, last had the event in 1989.
So why does the league skip Portland, spreading the game's cash and international cachet elsewhere? Lack of a big-time hotel.
Drew Mahalic, CEO of the Oregon Sports Authority, says the authority has supported two failed attempts in the past decade by the Blazers to lure the All-Stars.
"The feedback," Mahalic says, "was that we didn't have the large headquarters-type hotel that could accommodate the entire NBA delegation."
Portland's largest hotel is the downtown Hilton, which has 782 rooms but is across the Willamette from the Rose Quarter and has rooms in two separate buildings.
Apparently that's not good enough for the NBA, which likes to take over an entire, arena-side hotel in the 800-room range.
Next year's All-Star Game will be in Las Vegas, which doesn't have a team (but does have a few hotels). And after the 2008 and 2009 games (expected to be in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans and Phoenix, respectively), there's talk that the game will go overseas, since the league wants to build visibility in Europe.
Mahalic hopes the NBA will look favorably on Portland if a large local hotel ever emerges and the Blazers renew interest.
But with significant City Council skepticism about subsidizing any convention-center hotel near the Rose Garden, the Trail Blazers saying the game isn't a priority for them, and the league now considering non-NBA cities, that hope seems forlorn.
|Team||Starless Since||Number of years|
|*Has never hosted the All-Star Game.|