Chief Executive Officer - Vulcan Sports & Entertainment
President/Chief Executive Officer – Portland Trail Blazers
Chris McGowan serves as Chief Executive Officer of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment (VSE), where he oversees business operations of all VSE sports franchises and facilities. Chris also serves as VSE representative for the ownership stake in the Seattle Sounders (MLS).
Named Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter President & Chief Executive Officer in October 2012, McGowan, 47, moved to the Pacific Northwest from Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), where he was recognized by the Sports Business Journal in its exclusive “Forty Under 40” list in 2012. McGowan spent 16 years with AEG, including a final assignment as Chief Operating Officer of AEG Sports, before becoming one of the NBA’s youngest CEOs. Prior to ending his time with AEG Sports, McGowan was a part of a Stanley Cup Championship run for the LA Kings in the National Hockey League; an MLS Cup title for the LA Galaxy and played an important role in opening one of the country’s most iconic sports and entertainment venues – Staples Center.
McGowan oversees the day-to-day operations of the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter including Arena Operations, Ticket Sales and Service, Corporate Partnerships, Premium Seating, Analytics, Brand Strategy, Innovation & Technology, Corporate Communications, Community, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, Broadcasting, Digital, Finance and Human Resources. Since joining the organization, the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter have seen dramatic increases in all key revenue areas including ticket sales, sponsorship, retail, arena operations and food and beverage.
In 2020, McGowan spearheaded the initiative to fight racial injustice and expand diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the community and organization. Under his guidance, the Trail Blazers launched the Racial Injustice Initiative, consisting of an organization-wide commitment to fight racism with the creation of the Racial Injustice Fund of the Trail Blazers Foundation. The Fund, seeded by $200,000 in donations from the company, employees, players and coaches and continually funded by donations from fans and partners, will support nonprofit organizations advocating for racial justice and police reform at the local and national level.
McGowan ensures all business decisions for Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Quarter campus are made with sustainability in mind. Because of this, Moda Center became the first-ever existing LEED O+M v.4.1 Platinum venue in 2019 – a certification he intends to keep when making decisions around waste, energy, food, water and transportation.
With the help of McGowan’s leadership and vision, both the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter organizations have seen record-breaking growth. In 2019, the Rose Quarter hosted its highest number of shows and concerts yet and has seen an increase in shows and concerts hosted year-over-year. During the 2019-20 NBA season, the Trail Blazers set an organizational record for ticket sales revenue.
In 2018, McGowan was named to the additional role of CEO of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, where his responsibilities expanded further into the professional sports franchises and entertainment properties in the Vulcan portfolio. McGowan manages a cross-functional executive team in both Portland and Seattle in leading these business operations.
In 2017, McGowan was honored as one of the “Business Executives of the Year” by the Portland Business Journal. Locally, McGowan is active in the Portland community and currently serves as a board member of the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation, Oregon Sports Authority, Oregon Business Council and Trail Blazers Foundation.
In August 2013, McGowan and his team negotiated a community partnership with Moda Health that included naming rights to Moda Center. Together, Moda and the Trail Blazers have energized Portland’s hub for sports and entertainment, creating an urban showcase for healthy, active living. Chicago-based Performance Health joined the Trail Blazers and Moda’s focus on active lifestyles with its Biofreeze product as the team’s first-ever jersey patch branding sponsor beginning with the 2018-19 NBA season.
McGowan has piloted major venue and technological improvements to the Rose Quarter campus and Trail Blazers Practice Facility, including $16 million in capital improvements. This includes safety and cleanliness updates to the Rose Quarter and its venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic; refurbishment of 1,800 seats in the Kuni Lexus Club Level; renovation of 44 of the arena’s private suites; construction of 24 theatre-style premium boxes called Studio Suites; opening of an exclusive “speakeasy-style” club called Oro Fino and the creation of a glass-enclosed bar on the arena’s top level named The Pines, featuring panoramic views of Downtown Portland.
Fan-based upgrades to liven up the Rose Quarter have also been a focal point during McGowan’s eight years in Portland. Named after the winningest coach in franchise history, Dr. Jack’s is the perfect spot to grab a bite or enjoy a cocktail before and after Rose Quarter events. McGowan also restored the popular Essential Forces water feature at the south entrance to Moda Center, and environmentally friendly landscaping projects have brightened up the Rose Quarter campus.
He has taken advantage of Portland’s thriving food culture by bringing local fare and some of the city’s popular restaurants to Moda Center, including Killer Burger, Salt & Straw, Sizzle Pie, Daddy D’s and Tamale Boy. In 2013, McGowan signed Levy as the Rose Quarter’s food and beverage partner for award-winning culinary vision, hospitality and customer service. An agreement with Levy subsidiary Rank + Rally also oversees the Trail Blazers retail store, Rip City Clothing Co.
McGowan led a business restructuring to self-operate Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Quarter campus in 2013. Through a partnership with Live Nation and event ticketing systems under Ticketmaster, McGowan has driven an unprecedented variety of events to the Rose Quarter, including Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, Elton John, Katy Perry, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Billy Joel, the 2019 NCAA Women’s Regional Basketball Tournament, the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and PK80 Invitational – a groundbreaking college basketball tournament featuring 16 of the country’s top teams in a double-bracket format honoring Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday in 2017.
McGowan has created two annual events during the Trail Blazers offseason to bring the team to fans across Oregon and Southwest Washington. In seven years of the Rip City Rally, the organization has engaged over 30 communities throughout the region to showcase the Trail Blazers as “Oregon’s team.” McGowan also brought back the popular 3-on-3 basketball tournament to the Rose Quarter – an annual event called Rip City 3-on-3 that is one of the state’s premier outdoor basketball events, attracting thousands of attendees from across the region and raising money for the Trail Blazers Foundation.
Under McGowan’s leadership, the organization’s charitable giving has increased annually thanks to new funding sources, including proceeds from the Trail Blazers specialty license plates for Oregon vehicles and new Racial Injustice Fund of the Trail Blazers Foundation. During the 2019-20 season, the team’s cash grants and donations exceeded $1.1 million benefitting schools and nonprofits in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
McGowan earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Delaware in 1996, where he was captain of the soccer team. Chris, his wife Susan, and their two sons, Ryan (18) and Kyle (16), reside in Southwest Portland.