Spirit of 77

Spirit of 77 in Portland, OR

Monday night was probably my favorite night we’ve spend in Portland thus far. Considering we spent it in an empty sports bar might lead you to believe that I’ve had a REALLY bad time in Portland thus far, BUT before you start feeling sorry for me, take a look at where we were. If you have ever visited Spirit of 77 on NE MLK, you know exactly what I mean–and yes, this encompasses everyone on the planet Earth because I refuse to believe there is anyone who doesn’t like this place (though, I’m sure there is…but I’m making a point here people. So just go with it.)

Spirit of 77 is in a nutshell a sports bar. But it is unlike any other sports bar you’ve ever been to. I know when most of us think “sports bar” we think of a dingy, hole in the wall, beer on the floor, beer on everything really, people yelling too loud, memorabilia that looks like it walked out of Applebee’s…you know what I mean. But, if I could incapsulate Spirit of 77 in one sentence it would be:

The most timeless representation of the evolution of sports and the experience that goes along with being a fan wrapped into one building, under one roof making it impossible to not be a fan of the game–whatever game that happens to be.

View inside Spirit of 77
Incredible wood signage instillation you see immediately entering Spirit of 77.

OMFG Co. happens to be the genius behind this whole project. They are a design/illustration/branding/we do everything under the sun group of guys located next door to Mr. Fancy Pant’s studio in Portland, OR. Check out their site. Their client list is amazing.

AIGA did a case study on the development and execution of making Spirit of 77 what it is today, interviewing the guys at OMFG Co. I love what they had to say about the goal of the whole project:

The goal was implicit in the brief: reinvent the sports bar. Make it a place where people actually want to go to, sports fanatic and “civilian” alike. The survey of friends and family, when asked, “Where do you go when you want to watch the game?” never had a clear answer – it was a weighing of lesser evils, proximity, and limited by the size of your group.

The cliché is unfortunately true: sports bar food is usually sub-par, the drinks are unexciting and the testosterone levels are uncomfortably high. The design of the room, the marketing materials (if they exist) are usually uninspired or off-the-shelf from a beer company. The main feature—the endless sea of big screen TVs—creates an unpleasant atmosphere, with pockets of gatherings competing for attention, as opposed to the sense of community you have in a stadium or arena.

We wanted a place with a point of view, thoughtful design at every corner, a locally sourced and inspired menu, and a top-shelf bar program. Most importantly, we wanted a sense of community akin to being at the game itself, drawing from the best aspects of sports and leaving the hostility aside. The collective cheering, rooting for your team, and the shared groan of losing—you feel a part of something bigger. It’s invigorating, to say the least.

Dart board area
Basketball goals! (photo above and below curtesy of OMFG Co.)

I will say, I cannot wait to go watch an Alabama game there. They are showing the September 10th UA vs. Penn State game and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be there. It was a completely amazing experience to be there basically by ourselves though. There was one other group of people there when we arrived and one other couple there when we left. It is my understanding that this is FAR from the norm. Spirit of 77 is normally packed to the brim with people so I was glad to catch it on a quieter evening. We will definitely be returning, though to experience the whole thing again with the excitement of fellow sports fans.

Above and below are pictures of the custom, hand-built basketball arcade (dubbed The Buzzer Beater). We played I don’t know how many games on this thing. They also have shuffleboard, foosball, and darts (all free I might add–you just have to wait your turn to play).

Mr. Fancy Pants showing off his mad skills. His scores were WAY higher than mine.
Look at that follow thru!
Having a good ole time for a Monday night! (for any night for that matter!)

Here is my favorite take away from the article (sorry for so much copy and paste but I couldn’t say it better myself):

Imbued into all components of the branding and marketing is a layer of “intelligent stupidity.” For example, using vintage sports trading cards as a base, we Photoshopped out what was once a football or basketball, and replaced it with a piece of fried chicken or a boiled egg. Once reprinted in the exact format and style of a trading card, that became the artwork for our take away menu.

The brand voice is that of a sports fanatic with a sharp sense of humor, one that celebrates the hilarious innocence of previous eras, and wants to relive those times today.

William and I playing foosball. We’re awful.
Spirit of 77 in Portland, OR

Here is an amazing explanation of the signage above the main bar (also from the AIGA article):

Above the long main bar is the namesake signage. Each letter is 4-ft. tall, and the entire length is roughly 33 feet. We constructed it from start to finish in the space, with the typeface projected onto sheets of plywood, which we cut out with a jigsaw. The result can be seen from blocks away, and is the glowing beacon for the bar.

To top off the evening, we paid the best $4 that we have in a while to have some photo booth pictures taken. Digressing a bit, but I have decided that we’re going to take photo booth pictures wherever we encounter one from now on. I mean, how great are these?! I read this magazine article in this month’s Martha Stewart Living about this couple who took one photo booth set of pictures every year. It was a cool timeline to follow as their family grew. I like it. And I’m stealing the idea.

Best $4 I’ve spent in a while. Oh by the way in case you didn’t know, Mr. Fancy Pants is, at the moment, missing some teeth.

If you ever come and visit us here in Portland, we’re probably going to take you to Spirit of 77. So get ready.

To read more about the whole project–which I strongly recommend because it is incredibly interesting and informative–click here to access the entire AIGA article.

To check out Spirit of 77’s website click here.

To learn more about the talented guys behind OMFG Co. click your little mouse here.


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