By Fred Delkin
The Vikings are on the move…the Portland State Vikings that is, who already boast the highest enrollment for Oregon institutions of higher learning. The downtown campus is now gathering funds for a $50 million expansion of current facilities at Stott Center, to be titled the Viking Pavilion. This project will provide a ew 5,000 seat home for PSU basketball, new health & physical education classrooms and 18,000 sq’ ft. of group study space. It is also intended to provide a home for a variety of public performance events and trade shows.
PSU was founded as Vanport College in 1946 in north Portland on the banks of the Columbia river, which flooded the campus in 1948. This inspired a move to downtown with a new name as Portland State College and occupation of the Lincoln high school complex on SW Broadway. Student enrollment has grown from 1,400 for Vanport;s first fall term to 28,731,as compared to the 2012 figures for Oregon State University (26,393) and the University of Oregon (24,591). PSU now claims a substantial spread of new and renovated buildings just uphill from downtown on both sides of Broadway that includes student housing and multilevel parking structures.
Viking football has profited from the remodeling of old Multnomah stadium into Jeld-Wen field, shared with the Timbers soccer franchise. However, Stott Center has served Viking basketball inadequately as an under 2,000 seat facility more suited to high school competition. As an aside, this writer recalls when he interviewed Portland NBA Trailblazers’ founder Harry Glickman on his thoughts concerning a PSU athletic upgrade, Glickman declared that basketball, rather than football, should be a PSU goal for NCAA Division I participation. Now, the new Pavilion will lend credence to Harry’s advice, which at the time it was uttered, was based on the use of Memorial Coliseum, pre-Rose Garden.
PSU has been a member of the Big Sky conference since 1996, playing football at the NCAA FCS level, and other intercollegiate sports for men & women as a full Division I participant. Viking grid recruiting efforts have now been centered upon Pacific Northwest high school graduates, as Oregon & Oregon State have gone beyond home state ties to recruit nationally. Yes, academics should be the true purpose for an institution of higher learning, but practice has proven that athletic success inspires both alumni and public revenue sources. Note that nearby private colleges Pacific and Lewis & Clark have revived their football programs and Newberg;s bastion of Quaker sponsorship, George Fox, will launch a gridiron effort this year.
Speaking of alumni, PSU has graduated some names familiar to gridiron devotees…June Jones, Neil Lomax and Clint Didier as examples, and ol’ Viking mentor Darrell “Mouse” Davis refuses to retire, now functioning as an announcer for PSU games. We must avoid a total focus on football by mentioning that major league baseball players Steve Olin and Jeff Lahti first starred in Green & White, as did MLB manager Tom Trebelhorn.
Famed Author Jean Auel (“Clan of the Cave Bear”) studied on the Park Blocks, as did 2002 Miss America Katie Harman. Let’s hear it for ol’ PSU, a downtown campus for higher achievment.