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Official Review by Paul Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
One of the most recognizable landmarks in North Portland is the Earl A. Chiles Center located on the campus of the University of Portland. Built in 1984, the Chiles Center houses both basketball and volleyball for the Pilots. Merlo Field (soccer) and Joe Etzel Field (baseball) sandwich the arena on The Bluff, the section of Portland that overlooks Swan Island and the Willamette River.
The Chiles Center has a 62 foot high dome that holds 4852 fans comfortably. In 2010, the arena updated its sound system, installed four video boards over center court, and added two scoreboards and two shot clocks. With all of the recent updates, the Chiles Center is considered one of the most modern athletic and convocation facilities on the west coast.
The University of Portland is known more for soccer (NCAA Champions in 2002 and 2005), than they are for basketball, although the men’s basketball program has reached the NCAA tournament twice (1959 and 1996). As a whole, the school has a rich athletic heritage with numerous conference titles in multiple sports. Some notable athletic alumni include: Ken Dayley (former MLB pitcher), Bill Krueger (former MLB pitcher and current Seattle Mariners color analyst), Erik Spoelstra (NBA head coach), and Shannon MacMillan (International soccer player).
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The pregame dining is the main attraction here. The arena offers an all-you-can eat pasta, salad, bread, and dessert for $8. A sit down meal is an unusual feature for a college game, but is highly popular here. Dining is on the second floor, behind the upper level stands. This is also the one place beer and wine are available.
In addition to the all-you-can eat, the arena offers the standard fare. Menu items include hot dogs ($5), popcorn ($4), soda ($3-$4), and ice cream ($3-$4). Nothing out of the ordinary, although Zenner's brand hot dogs, a Portland favorite, are featured here.
The overall atmosphere at the Chiles Center pales in comparison to other sports venues in Portland. The excitement level is not what you might expect for a Division I team, but the team's record might have something to do with that. The staff works very hard to make the experience at the arena a pleasant one for everybody. There are contests for kids and students during the breaks and halftime.
The Pilot band plays before the game and during breaks. The band is quite good, which adds to the overall atmosphere in the arena.
The Chiles Center is located at the edge of the historic St. John's section of Portland. The campus is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, which are among the longest standing neighborhoods in Portland. The architecture of the homes in the area is from a time when decorative additions were commonplace.
There is a nice selection of dining choices nearby the arena. McMenamins St. John's Pub & Theater is a good place to get a microbrew and catch a movie. Cha Cha Cha Taqueria is one of the many Mexican restaurants in town. If that's not to your liking, the Fishwife Seafood Restaurant is also fairly close.
Out of town fans will have to do a bit of travelling as there are few hotels/motels in the area. Downtown Portland is roughly 15 minutes away with ample lodging options.
It's too bad the Pilots don't draw a bigger crowd. Most fans in the stands are season ticket holders or alumni. The student section can be near empty at many games. During my most recent visit, the number of visiting fans outweighed Pilot fans roughly two to one. The fans that are there to root for the home team are engaged and vocal.
U of P is a Catholic school and I believe that has an impact on the type of fans the team draws. This reviewer did not hear any of the derogatory comments like you might hear at a secular venue. The fan base at a Pilots game is a very classy crowd.
One of the positives at Chiles Center is that there is a fair amount of parking around, although the majority is on the streets around the neighborhood. There are a few parking lots on campus and those fill quickly.
Once inside, there is a good sized entryway, but the hallways are a bit narrow. The aisles in the seats are well sized and easy to navigate. For those wanting to avoid stairs as much as possible, there are elevators to the upper level.
Bathrooms are adequately sized for the size of the arena.
The food that is offered is one huge positive. When comparing the price of a general admission ticket to any other sports venue in Portland, it is hard to see the bang for your buck until the program is able to produce more wins. For now, this is "as good as it gets" for the Chiles Center and fans both.
Thomas Van Der Mars, senior center, was recognized before the game as the school's first "First Team Academic All-American." He is only the 10th player in WCC history to achieve that honor. Winning an award of that magnitude is quite an achievement indeed.
Souvenir choices include hats ($20-$25), shirts ($20-$35), and jerseys ($45). The team will come out after the game to provide fans and kids with posters and autographs, free of charge.
I enjoyed attending the Chiles Center for Portland basketball. While I appreciate all the things that this arena offers, I can see how other fans might not be as impressed as I was. If you are in the market for a family friendly sporting event, this is a great option. Overall, attending a Pilot game is a nice experience, although there are better investments in the Portland market.
Member Review by BryndonCoughlin on Mar 11, 2013
The Chiles Center, home of Pilot basketball and volleyball is tucked away in the heart of North Portland. It sits in between the University of Portland’s soccer and baseball stadiums: Merlo Field and Joe Etzel Field. The Center seats 4,852 and is covered by a 62 foot high dome with a diameter of 305 feet. Located about 25 minutes from PDX International Airport, the Chiles Center opened in 1984 and has played host to the WCC Tournament in 1992 and 2007. In 2010, the scoreboard and video system was added over center court. It contains four video displays, each measuring almost seven feet high by nine feet wide, and is complete with an up-to-date sound system. At the same time, the school also installed two new score clocks and two new three sided 24 second shot clocks.
The Chiles Center is considered one of the most modern athletic and convocation facilities on the West Coast. Unfortunately, the fans and the program don’t live up to the beautiful dome that’s measured over 2,000,000 cubic feet.
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