The Portland Trail Blazers have stood as Oregon's lone professional sports franchise since 1995, and have long been a source of pride among Portland residents. In fact, from 1977 through 1995 the team sold out 814 consecutive home games, a record among American professional sports franchises. Long hailed as being home to some of the best fans the NBA has to offer, the patrons of the Rose Garden are raucous, knowledgeable and create an electric atmosphere, closer to an energetic college crowd than one typical of the NBA. Being in the arena, cheering along with thousands of like-minded fans is exhilarating, and something a true sports fan in Portland shouldn't miss.
After a brief period where their players earned the nickname the "JailBlazers" for poor behavior off the court and lackluster play on it, the team's management issued a 25 point pledge to fans, promising to create a better experience. Since that time the Blazers have assembled what has been oft-regarded as one of the best young teams in the NBA, accumulating a solid core of exciting, talented young players. The Blazers are currently on another sell-out streak dating to December of 2007, which while paling in comparison to their previous record of 814 games, still indicates how well the team has rebounded from a stretch of down years.
The Blazers compete every night, in spite of an unlucky spate of recent injuries, with talented #1 pick, big man Greg Oden, missing more games than he has played in his short career, and All-Star guard Brandon Roy dealing with multiple knee injuries. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in particular, has stepped up, and with the help of his teammates, has carried the Blazers to play-off contention yet again. Coach Nate McMillan wills the most out of his players every game and the Blazers oblige, producing a winning blend of intense, entertaining basketball.
The Blazers have also created one of the best on-court celebrations in the NBA with their popular "3-goggles". Newcomer Wesley Matthews, wing player Rudy Fernandez and point guard Patty Mills have combined to create the iconic gesture, which you can see every time a Blazer hits a three-pointer, especially if it happens to be one of the aforementioned three. You'll see players throw their hands to their face, making a circle for the goggles, with the remaining three fingers outstretched. The result is "3-goggles", a unique, fun celebration you'll only see in Portland. Making it even more fun, if the Blazers make four three-pointers in the first half you get a ticket for a free Chalupa from Taco Bell, so everybody wins.
The Blazers do a great job of keeping the atmosphere festive during breaks in the action, alternately showcasing their legion of dancers and stunt teams with entertaining contests and giveaways. The Blazer dance team showcases beautifully choreographed routines, while their counterparts the Junior Blazer dancers and the hip-hop themed Jam Squad provide a different look at select home games. Be sure to keep an eye out for the stunt team, with their high-flying acrobatics and precarious human pyramid formations that are often showcased on the baseline of the court. One of the more entertaining contests run by the Blazers is human-bowling, which while pretty self-explanatory, is exceedingly entertaining. Two contestants are given helmets, strapped onto sleds and sent careening across the court into huge foam bowling pins. Also entertaining is the blindfolded appliance contest, featuring a contestant that has been spun around and sent off in the general direction of three appliances, winning whichever one they run into first. The prizes aren't confined to the court either, with t-shirt guns firing compressed shirt packages into even the upper seating of the arena, and a life-sized inflatable car dropping prizes from its undercarriage.
The proximity of the arena to downtown metro Portland means your options for getting to the game are varied and numerous. Highway 5 runs right past the arena, and provides quick access to the Rose Garden, although game-time and rush hour traffic can easily cause delays. Parking at one of the three lots associated with the Rose Garden is $13, while some nearby street lots run upwards of $15, and driving to the game means that unless you skip out early you'll certainly end up fighting traffic. Portland's ubiquitous public transportation system is your best bet for a stress-free trip to the game. The Yellow, Red, Green and Blue lines of the MAX all provide easy access with stops near the Rose Garden, and in addition many buses pass by the arena area.
A popular tactic used by many fans is to park in one of the free designated parking areas outside the crowded metro area, then take a MAX train into the city to avoid the traffic and parking fees. If you decide to take this route, you'll surely encounter some fellow Blazer fans on the train to help get you in the mood for game time. The arena is also close enough to downtown to ride your bike to the game, something to keep in mind if you would like to contribute to Portland's quest to be the "greenest" city in the United States. In fact, due in no small part to its multitude of public transportation options, the Rose Garden was the first arena in all of major professional sports to be granted LEED Gold certification for sustainable building by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2009.
Game Food, Portland Style
The LEED certification also means you'll find recycling and food waste bins throughout the stadium in addition to traditional trash cans, as well as a number of local food and beverage options at the concession stands. The adult beverage options in particular are outstanding at the Rose Garden, and given Portland's affection for microbrews, you would expect nothing less. Around the stadium concourse level are two separate bar areas sponsored by microbreweries: Pyramid's Tap House and Widmer Brothers' Fan Haus, each serving a selection of its own craft-brewed beers in a bar setting, complete with bar seating and multiple TV screens. There are also beer and wine dispensaries around the concourse to help you grab a quick drink to take back to your seat, but as usual at a sporting event none will be cheap, with a domestic beer running over $7 and microbrews even a few bucks more.
In addition to the great beverage options, there are a few dining choices beyond your usual stadium fare, some featuring local fresh food choices and others that are specialized dining options based on your seating area. These options are mostly tied to plush accommodations, such as a restaurant catering to the courtside seats and all-inclusive suites, both of which can be expensive. If you happen to be planning on going with a large group, however, renting a suite can be a great option and offers a very different experience from the general arena. It's like watching the game from the comfort of your home, except with a great live view of the action and the company of 10 or so of your closest friends. Some packages include all the food and non-alcoholic beverages you want, so bring your appetite. Suites can also be a great option for families with small children, giving the little ones a safe area to roam where you can keep an eye on them. For the big spenders and those looking for the best the Blazers have to offer, there's a restaurant and bar available only to fans with courtside seats. The restaurant is open for a pre-game meal in addition to the courtside waiter service provided to you during the game. There truly is no better way to experience an NBA game than sitting courtside with a wait staff tending to your needs, never missing a second of the action unfolding in front of you.
Even if you're not a huge sports fan, you'll usually find something to entertain you at a Blazers game, and if not, you can always enjoy the local fare and craft beer options. With the crowd's roar as your guide you're sure to exclaim a few "Oohs and Aahs" watching the high-flying dunks, pretty no-look passes and constant barrage of three-pointers. Just remember to put on your "3-goggles", and you'll be fine. If you are an NBA fanatic, then simply count your blessings that you got the chance to experience a game at the Rose Garden, and loudly cheer the Trail Blazers on to another victory.