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Folks are talking up Portland as a major league city again

Jan 23, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT


Back about 10-15 years ago Major League Baseball loved to talk up Portland, Oregon as a relocation/expansion site. Indeed, after Washington, D.C. it was the second most-mentioned city that could — and maybe should — have a major league team.

There was a lot of work done by baseball backers in the city but, ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards. Local opposition to a publicly-funded ballpark was just too great. A few years later Portland even lost its Triple-A team when the owner of its ballpark saw a more lucrative use of the building: soccer.

But now, according to this report by Tracy Ringolsby, there is baseball fever in Portland again. And maybe even a plan:

Portland’s backers of baseball have the blueprint for a state-of-the-art baseball-only stadium, which would have a retractable roof and seat 35,000. They have community support, including that of the current city administration. A site, endorsed by mayor Charlie Hales, has been chosen, next to Memorial Coliseum and the new Rose Garden, home of the NBA’s Trailblazers . . . All the folks in Portland need is a team.

A blueprint is nice, but so is funding, and there are no details of that yet. And while there is talk of the possibility of a major corporate owner of a would-be Portland team, there is a lack of a willing seller or re-locator of a major league team. People talk about the A’s, but they’re not for sale and have not come off the idea of moving to San Jose or building a new park in Oakland. The Rays have a tough lease. Everyone else is pretty much in place for the long haul.

Also: it’s one thing for there to be community support and support of the city government when it’s all hypothetical like it is now. That draws people who are profoundly interested and desirous of baseball in the city. Once plans go further, however, in will wade the people who oppose such a thing, either because of the inevitable costs to taxpayers — even a totally private development would require some public help, even if it’s just utilities, infrastructure or property tax abatements and the like — or because some people just like to oppose big stuff like this. Sometimes the opposition is silly NIMBY stuff. Sometimes it’s serious stuff related to people’s vision of what they want their city to be like and whether professional sports fit that vision.

It would be cool for a team to play in Portland. But I say that as someone who doesn’t live in Portland and who doesn’t have to wrestle with the issues a ballpark and all of the attendant hoopla inevitably creates. It sounds to me that, however promising things look now, not everyone in Portland is wrestling with that yet themselves. Wake me up when the wrestling begins.

  1. spudchukar - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Nah, way more fun to listen to you sleep.

  2. sdelmonte - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    I would want to see them get and keep a Triple A team first. No reason to consider moving anyone there (since expansion doesn’t seem to be in the cards) if you are just going from one bad home base to another.

  3. chacochicken - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Personal Claim to Fame: Got local government in Miami to contribute over 350 million dollars to a new baseball park during the recession. Proceeded to help owner abandon city and move team to Portland in the middle of the night.

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      Looks like Chickens type faster than disassociated catcher’s gear (see my comment below). I will get you next time, fowl.

      • chacochicken - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        I just hunt and peck.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        Oh, well played sir. You chickens are pretty clever.

    • fanofevilempire - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      Let Loria stay right where he is, he wanted out of Montreal and he got that, this
      is not musical chairs. If Portland should be so lucky as to have the honor of
      handing over 400 million for a team MLB team they should not have to suffer through
      a despicable owner. Portland yes, Loria no!

    • Tim's Neighbor - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      If the dream of the 90s is still alive in Portland, that public money should be easy to get.

      • chacochicken - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:27 PM

        So would Kyle MacLachlan support a stadium?

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 23, 2014 at 6:15 PM

        The stadium might be free range… but is it local?

  4. normcash - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Hard for me to believe there’s a population base sufficient to support a MLB team. North of Portland is Seattle Mariner’s territory and south and east of Portland is…not much. 2,500,000 metro area
    people isn’t enough for a sport with 82 dates per year.

    • spudchukar - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      Yeah, like St. Louis.

      • cohnjusack - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        City: 587,000
        Metro: 2,900,000

        St. Louis
        City: 318,000
        Metro: 2,900,000

        Then again, St. Louis benefits from more than 100 years of baseball history, KMOX’s powerful broadcasting signal creating a widespread fan base and that St. Louis used to have a much larger population than it does today.

      • spudchukar - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        Thanks for doing the back-up research. Actually I agree, the Cards probably have a larger draw than the 2.9mil, but not by a lot, and Portland would have Idaho to support them.

      • cohnjusack - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:52 PM

        Portland would have Idaho to support them.

        Idaho is sparsely populated and the border is roughly 350 miles to Portland via the shortest driving route I could come up with on Google Maps in 45 seconds. That is roughly the same distance as St. Louis and Cincinnati.

      • spudchukar - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        Dude, did you really think I was serious? Plus out here in God’s country 350 miles is just a drive over the hill.

    • billybawl - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:01 PM

      It’s not just ticket sales. I think Portland would do fine, esp. with a 35K stadium. But you’d need two things for a team to relocate to Portland: a stadium almost totally financed with public money and a lucrative local TV contract. Even if they could persuade the public to cede valuable downtown property and public money to a consortium of rich people, I’m not sure that the TV contract would be there. But maybe someone will tell me that the Blazers have a very good TV contract.

  5. raysfan1 - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Look for MLB to encourage Portland, not to get a team there but to have what they hope is a potentially viable threat to any current MLB city that is unwilling to pony up public funding of billionaires’ playthings.

    • fatediesel - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:59 PM

      So pretty much what the NBA has been doing with Seattle since the Sonics left.

      • raysfan1 - Jan 23, 2014 at 5:36 PM

        Yep, and the NFL with LA.

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 23, 2014 at 6:18 PM

        Hey, the NFL is coming back here to LA!

        Sometime within the next millennium.

      • Professor Fate - Jan 23, 2014 at 8:07 PM

        No city government currently hosting an NFL team would take the owner seriously if he tried to threaten a move to L.A. The number one reason the NFL has been absent from the nation’s second-largest market for two decades is because the public will simply not gift any multimillionaires with a free stadium.

        If you threaten to move to L.A. you’d better already have private financing for a stadium as well as the L.A. City Council on board so you can fast-track the required environmental review. There have been several attempts to lure a team to L.A. that haven’t come to fruition. Houston got what was supposed to have been L.A.’s expansion team primarily because no one in the L.A. area wanted to line then-current owners’ pockets with that ridiculous expansion (extortion) fee.

    • billybawl - Jan 23, 2014 at 6:08 PM

      This. Portland and Montreal could be the new Denver and St. Pete.

  6. themanytoolsofignorance - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    How about taking the Marlins off of Loria in The Best Interests of Baseball and moving the club to Portland, instead? Then the city of Miami can sue Loria and ARod (because, why not, since everyone hates him anyways. I bet he loses, too) for defrauding the taxpayers of $400M? THAT might make some sense.

  7. brent4liberty - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    Baseball could expand, adding Portlandia and maybe somewhere like New Orleans, Nashville / Memphis, or Charlotte..

  8. moogro - Jan 23, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    The reason young people go there to retire is not the overall desolate economy and lack of jobs. It is the seemingly unlimited supply of cheap houses, apartments and crash zones affordable with even a little bit of public assistance, some construction work, some drug dealing or some part-time waitressing. I’m sure anyone who has been to Portland laughs at the notion of selling a lot of baseball tickets, or cries thinking about the added financial burden on that population being forced to pay for a b/millionaire’s stadium.

    • WhyDoIActuallyCare - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      You’ve either never lived in Portland or you’re completely delusional. A lot of tourists and media types like to push the “Portlandia” thing, but in reality, that’s only a small subset who live that way, The rest of us just have little pieces of that in our lives – it doesn’t define us. Also, if you pay any attention to soccer or basketball – Portland is pretty damn committed to their major sports teams.

    • cohnjusack - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:36 PM

      Ahh yes, nothing like some myth-making!

      Portland’s median household income of $51,000 is higher than the following cities that have an MLB team(all data for US Census Bureau Quick Facts Site)?

      Los Angeles: (49k)
      Phoenix: (47k)
      Denver: (49k)
      Houston (44k)
      Minneapolis (48k)
      St. Louis (34k)
      Kansas City (45k)
      …you know what, I’m tired of doing this and haven’t even gotten West of the Mississippi yet.

      The unemployment rate of the Portland MAS ranks 22nd of 49, with a lower rate than the MAS of Tampa, Baltimore, Miami, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati, San Diego, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles

      I don’t think Portland can support a baseball team, but this notion that Portland is some impoverished, dysfunctional city is flat out ridiculous.

      • cohnjusack - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        you know what, I’m tired of doing this and haven’t even gotten West of the Mississippi y

        A’hem. I haven’t gotten EAST of the Mississippi yet. Pay attention in 1st grade when learning your directions folks, it will save you a lot of heartache.

      • moogro - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:34 PM

        Nice counter-myth making using stats like “median” and “unemployment.” You are correct when you say “I don’t think Portland can support a baseball team.”

      • cohnjusack - Jan 23, 2014 at 7:01 PM

        Sorry moogro, should I use stats like “false narrative”, and “bulls**t”?(lousy WordPress not allowing curse words!)

        The fact is, Portland has a median income around average, an unemployment rate about average, a violent crime rate far below average… By what standard are you saying Portland has a “desolate economy” and “lacks jobs”?

  9. jimmylegz - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    I can’t wait for the Portland Thinkers to become a real thing

    • jcmeyer10 - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:12 PM

      Portland Foodies is just as likely.

      • 4d3fect - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:19 PM

        forget all these boring details about financing and politics, I’m dreaming of a Portland Hipsters team, man.

  10. Bar None - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:26 PM

  11. El Pollo Loco - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    the Portland Beavers 2.0

  12. otown32806 - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    I think Orlando should have the rays move here. With a new MLS team and the magic Orlando would def support a mlb team. With the rebuilding of the citrus bowl Orlando can do it and haves a lot of baseball fans

  13. cackalackyank - Jan 23, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    The mind boggles at the idea of expansion. Just imagine what the few competent pitchers around would earn if there were 32 teams. On the other hand maybe the solution is to change the face of the game big time. How about 40 teams. 20 AAAA, made up of the poorest performing MLB teams plus 10 new entries: Portland, Charlotte, Buffalo, New Orleans, Memphis, Orlando, San Antonio, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and Montreal. ( I might consider kicking one of those for maybe Vancouver or something like that.) The remaining 20 MLB teams would become a Champions League. Every ten years there would be a franchise reentry lottery to determine if a team stays in the Champions League, or becomes AAAA. A formula of won/lost, attendance, and perhaps player development trends would decide the lottery winners and losers. I think just a serious suggestion of such a thing might get a few of the underperforming owners to stop stashing their TV money in the Cayman’s and start putting it into their franchises. It would also bring a higher level of play to more cities around the country. Ready on your marks, gets set, thumbs down away people.

  14. cubsfan101 - Jan 23, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    I only support this idea if Fred and Carrie decide the roster. Mr. Mayor must give consent to the idea, as well.

  15. penguins87and71 - Jan 23, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    What about Oklahoma City?

    • raysfan1 - Jan 23, 2014 at 7:31 PM

      That’s where I live now, and I’d love having a team here. However, the metro area population is 1.4 million; there are 14 other metro areas in the US that are both larger and also without a MLB franchise–including the above mentioned Portland. Also, the Texas Rangers would have a fit.

      • dylanthom2013 - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:19 PM

        Why would the Rangers have a fit? They moved their AAA team from OKC to Round Rock awhile ago, plus they’d be glad there’s a team that would siphon off the trailer trash that travel south to go to Rangers games just to get drunk and commit incest in the cheap sets. How you circumcise a hick from OKC? Kick his sister in the jaw.

      • raysfan1 - Jan 24, 2014 at 8:41 AM

        As I said, I live in OKC, and it’s pretty damn obvious I’m better educated than you, troll.

  16. i10east - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    The Portland Lumberjacks. I guess that sounds Northwesterny enough…

  17. swu32733 - Jan 24, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    Just move one of the California teams to Portland. Most of Portland’s population are California refugees anyway. Give them the A’s.

  18. oregoncoastdailynews - Jan 24, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    The city of Hillsboro and the D-Backs have put together a real nice team and park in the metro area. It is short season A ball, but the stadium is beautiful, the players are fun to watch, and I’d hate to see all that hard work go away so soon after their inaugural season . The Mariners are just 3 hours north of PDX. Let’s enjoy the Hops during the summer and let MLB stay right where it is

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