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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Portland's Not Getting Baseball

By Steven Weldon

I have never wanted to be wrong more.

I love baseball, I love the MLB, and I love the city of Portland. It's time to get real though.

We're not going to get a baseball team, let alone a new stadium for one.

In the past few years, there's been a slight fever pitch created by the Portland Diamond Project, pushing to bring Major League Baseball to Portland. There are significant backers to the project, getting a team to Portland and building their cathedral. But is it enough?

We've seen the big names, Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara, Portland broadcasting legend Mike Barrett, former Nike executive Craig Cheek. What we haven't seen is a solidified ownership group. Yes, it takes millions upon billions to even undertake the possibility to own a sports franchise. It takes a lot of time to gather that much money for what is reasonably considered a net-loss in the bank account.

Without someone putting real pressure on a league with their opportunity, re: money, they can't capitalize on a new market.

I first became worried about the MLB 2 PDX movement going awry when I read that the Portland Diamond Project set their goal for 2023 as opening day.

That's four years away. Both a lot and not a lot can happen in four years; as there have been multiple franchises who have up and left cities in the middle of the night, as well as franchises taking three years to move. Both those franchises, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Brooklyn Nets had stadiums already pre-built or billionaires looking to expand in the largest market in America.

The last baseball team to up and move cities was the Washington Nationals in 2005, moving from Montreal, where attendance was dismal, the stadium dilapidated and the interest waning. Portland was in the running then, mentioned many times as the largest media market in America without a major league baseball team. The main problem in that time period was similar to our current problem, a lack of big money backers and no stadium ready to go.

If a team is going to relocate, they need answers fast. They don't want to move if they don't have a shiny new park ready to go, in fact, they can't move unless they have a stadium ready to go, and the city of Portland no longer has a 30,000 seat baseball facility.

This leads me to the most recent issue I have seen related to the Portland Diamond Project.

They've gotta pay up some money for the negotiating rights for the property they want.

Terminal 2 is located in an industrial area of northwest Portland, and in order to get the land, they've gotta make sure they can pay money so that they can talk about even having the land. The first payment of $375,000 is due by the end of May. After that, it will be $125,000 every three months until the end of the year, and then the payment jumps to $187,000 for the subsequent three months after, continuing on.

You think Russell, Ciara, Mike and Craig, as well as their friends, have that kind of money laying around? If they did, they would have likely taken care of it a lot faster.

Closely related to this, in the situation the Diamond Project does pay up, the Port of Portland will look to create a new area for a terminal. In this day and age of pushback, this could also be a large hurdle. In addition, the area they're looking for development is not a heavy traffic area at this time and does not have a MAX service along with consistent bus service. That can always change; but is light rail still what we want to pursue in moving people?

Speaking of terminals, I am going to bring up my final point.

Oakland is making moves.

On May 14th, the Oakland Athletics and Port of Oakland officials agreed on a term sheet in which the A's would build a stadium in Jack London Square on Howard Terminal in the bay, with a 66-year lease, and $3.8 million due every year for the first 20 years.

In addition to this, the A's opened their plans to repurpose the Oakland Coliseum site, which is also losing its other main tenant; the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are moving to the Chase Center in downtown San Francisco starting in 2019-2020 season, leaving their 53-year-old stadium behind.

It's a huge step, as the Oakland Athletics brass has pushed the 'Rooted In Oakland' campaign, attempting many ideas across the east bay for the last five years. The A's have recently done much better about getting fans in the seats and increasing interest with a special general admission season ticket plan, making sweeping changes to their stadium experience by adding new areas to the old Oakland Coliseum, and winning games.

They have to, soon they'll be the only professional team left in Oakland.

The goal for the ballpark opening?


I've left one team out, and that is only because there's VERY little information on their plans. The Tampa Bay Rays are a talented team that's been to a World Series within the last 15 years; but also draws awful attendance to an awful domed stadium.

Could the Rays move? Yes. Will they move across the country and redraw new boundaries? Not likely.

Is expansion still on the table? Not without an owner or a stadium.

I want to be wrong. I want to be there, opening day, cheering on the Portland baseball team.

Sadly, it will end up like the last effort - falling apart because a billionaire isn't ready to commit to a one-horse town.


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