Portland Trail Blazers president Chris McGowan joined 1080 AM The Fan's Danforth, Dirt & Sprague for an interview on Tuesday.
Taylor Danforth, Andy Johnson and Brandon Sprague covered a lot of ground in the interview, touching on the Blazers' plans to upgrade the Moda Center, upcoming events, increased ticket prices and the general direction of the franchise, among other topics.
Audio can be found right here.
Here's a partial transcript.
Playoff push, recent struggles
"You've got to look at where our goals were at the start of the season, and be pretty happy about the progress we've made as an organization both on and off the court. If you know anything about the character of the guys on our team, they're going to get up when the playoffs start. It's just a matter of working those kinks out now. I think we're going to be fine when the playoff basketball starts."
Upgrades to Moda Center
"We're looking at every area of the arena and the Rose Quarter to improve on. We're going to do some stuff in the suite areas and refurbish them. We're going to re-do our club level, which is something that's needed to happen for awhile. We're putting a great new bar on the 300 level. A lot of times fans think we forget about the fans in the 300 level, we're not. We're very focused on making sure we reward their support and their passion, because they're there every night.
"Part of experiencing games is looking at areas of the arena that need improvement and trying to understand if it's really going to add to our fans' experience. That's priority number one. [Owner] Paul [Allen] is very open, if we have an idea that's going to make our organization better, he's really open to those types of things. We dream it up and we take it to Paul, and he says yes or no, and fortunately he says yes a lot more than he says no."
What have you learned about working for owner Paul Allen?
"I've known people that have worked for him, so I had that benefit and could talk to them about what it was like working for him. They all had great experiences with him. I came in really positive, obviously had the opportunity to meet with him a couple of times before the job was offered, and we had a good vibe. He's very personable and easy to talk to. He's involved in such a wide variety of things that it's super interesting to talk to him about that kind of stuff. He's founded Microsoft, he's been around the block, I just try to be a sponge and learn from him because he's super smart.
"More than anything, when you go work for an organization, you want a supportive, passionate, involved owner and we certainly have that with Paul. He bleeds Trail Blazers. That's what you want, engagement from your owner, I wasn't going to leave a good situation in L.A. to [come to] a situation that has 20 owners, or owners who don't come to games or aren't passionate about the success of the team."
The organization finally feels stable
"Stability starts with roles. I know my role. My role is to run a good organization, manage a couple hundred employees, run a great business and a great arena. [Blazers GM] Neil [Olshey] and [coach] Terry [Stotts] run the basketball side and we partner when we need to and we know that going in. It just works. I have a lot to do on a daily basis -- running the team's business side and the arena takes a good amount of time and certainly Neil has a ton of stuff to do as well.
"Fortunately we really get along from a personality perspective. Terry is a great guy as well. We have a good vibe, we're gelling, progressing as an organization and it feels stable."
What's the next big announcement coming down the pipeline?
"We're getting ready to launch a major service initiative for our arena through the Disney Institute, so hopefully when fans come to the arena for our games, they will feel our ushers and ticket-takers and our service people are handling their needs. We don't do that bad currently but it's always something you need to be focused on and want to improve on."
Do you play basketball?
"Quite a bit. We have a nice hoop at my house, my kids enjoy playing. I try to get out there a couple days a week. [My game is] certainly nothing to be proud of. I'm not that good at basketball. I was a soccer player. [Blazers PR man] Kris [Koivisto] has actually seen me make three-pointers in suits. NBA three-pointers too."
What's your gut feeling about the NHL coming to Portland in the next five years?
"I don't know if I have a prediction or a gut [feeling] yet on it. I will certainly have conversations about it. I believe it can work here. If the NHL is interested in the Pacific Northwest, I think Portland could be a great place for it. But nothing is imminent. All I can say is that we'll do the proper work to see if it's something that were able to come here, and that's all you can do."
Future of Memorial Coliseum
"I just got here a year and a half ago. I'm going to worry about improving the Moda Center and the Rose Quarter. We are partners with the city on that building. Certainly, we'll work very hard to make sure it's run well, and we book it. I like the fact that we have it because it gives us a ton of flexibility. There aren't many places in the country that have the Rose Quarter, the Memorial Coliseum and the Moda Center. It's an events campus that ranks up there with all of the campuses and entertainment districts around."
You are going with "Rip City" instead of a slogan
"In general, I'm not a fan of slogans for sports teams. They're really tricky -- you work hard to develop one and then you start a season 0-15 and that slogan that sounded really good [isn't good anymore]. This started when I was running the [NHL's Los Angeles] Kings, we didn't have slogans. For the final six seasons I was there, we had 'pride equals passion equals power.' That's kind of a slogan but we never really changed it. It was more about what our organization stood for.
"I also did a study once of every sports team's slogans, from all four sports leagues, and they're just various iterations of the same thing. It's 'Rise with us,' 'Come rise with Us,' 'Uprise,' I just try to stay away from that.
"We have [Rip City], something that's built in, that our fans love, that's authentic, that our players love. I think there's so many sports teams that would give anything to have that built in brand that we have here, so we might as well take advantage of it."
TV deal, Comcast and the satellite companies
"We don't have too much control now. We signed a deal several years ago that has three years left. The only thing we can do is work closely with them to try to be as supportive as possible. We don't sleep at night, knowing that there are so many fans who can't see our games. It's one of the biggest things we want to correct. Unfortunately we do have three years left on the deal that was signed six years ago."
Do you ever approach decisions from a fan's perspective?
"Particularly with ticket pricing. Having to raise prices is the toughest. It's not easy for fans to commit the type of money to us to buy their season tickets, we don't take it lightly.
"My job is to correct some of the issues that I inherited. We've fallen behind from an average ticket price compared to the NBA, we have to correct it. Sometimes that's painful. I apologize to fans who have to go through it, hopefully they can swing it or we have other options at the arena that may be more in people's price range. If they get priced out of a section, that's unfortunate, I don't want that to happen but we try to work with them to make them a satisfied, happy customer."
Coolest person in your cell phone besides Paul Allen?
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