Portland State’s new Viking Pavilion opened in April with a lot of fanfare on the South Park Blocks — and now I can see why. The $52 million facility provides a new home for the university’s basketball and volleyball teams at the south end of campus.
The 3,000-seat arena has, at most, only about a third of the capacity of its two in-state sister institutions, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, which both play in the more prestigious Pacific 12 Conference.
But the smaller scale is a big part of the appeal of Portland State’s arena. Having been there twice now, I can say that the more intimate space makes it a fun place to watch a game.
Last night, I went with a friend and former work colleague, Steve Beaven, to see PSU play its last preseason game of the year against Cal State Bakersfield. A couple weeks earlier, I went on my own, as a respite from Finals Week, to see PSU take on its intercity rival, the University of Portland.
The Vikings lost a close one last night, 76-71, but easily defeated the U of P, 87-78.
I sat in the general admission area for the first game and had a great view from the second-level seats. At the second game, it was an even better view from the reserved section, just two rows back from the floor at mid-court. The action is so much faster and the athleticism so much more apparent when you’re that close.
The venue itself is open and inviting, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. At one end of the arena, you can sit as if you were at a long bar counter and look out onto the action. At the other end, there is a reserved section for large groups. On either side, there are additional reserved sections that pass for suites. (Nobody was using them at last night’s game. Not a surprise, given the low stakes of a non-conference game when students are off for the winter break.)
There are just two concession stands and a couple of places to get a beer or cider (yes, cider, this being Portland). There is also a display of exhibits featuring Hall of Fame athletes as you enter the building.
During halftime last night, I noticed a couple members of the coed stunt team join the line for a snack, something you definitely wouldn’t see at the Moda Center, where the NBA’s Trail Blazers play. That little vignette underscored my overall take of the Viking Pavilion — that the place has the cozy feel of a high school gym.
I’d never attended a PSU game before now. There was little incentive last year, when the Vikings had to play their home games across town at Lewis and Clark College. Now I’m inclined to go back again.
With affordable prices, convenient parking on the street and entertaining basketball, what’s not to like?