UPDATE: OregonLive.com (The Oregonian) gets the major league point of view:
"I certainly hope baseball stays in Portland. I like the affiliation a great deal," said Kevin Towers, general manager of the San Diego Padres, the parent club of the Triple-A Portland Beavers. "There's nothing that says we have to be downtown, but I like the Portland area."
The Oregonian also notes that city officials in Vancouver, WA have been contacted about a possible relocation in the Portland area, and have been receptive. Beaverton, OR, which is west of Portland seems chilly to any possible stadium funding discussion.
Future of Beavers Remaining in Portland Area in Doubt
With Major League Soccer saying that expansion into the Portland market can only come by way of a soccer-only facility, AAA Beavers owner Merritt Paulson (see The Biz of Baseball interview with Paulson from 2007) has been working with Portland mayor Sam Adams, and commissioner Randy Leonard for funding to renovate PGE Park to soccer-only, while also seeking funds for a new minor league baseball stadium in Portland. The funding for the stadium renovation has been well within reach, but attempts to the minor league ballpark, first in the Rose Quarter area at the current Memorial Coliseum, and then in the Lents neighborhood of the city has run into stiff opposition. The cost of the stadium at the Lents location has been projected at $48 million.
Today, Paulson, who would own the expansion MLS franchise, dropped his attempt to gain funding for the baseball stadium. The Beavers would play one last season at PGE Park, with the future of professional baseball in the Portland at an end, and questions as to whether a stadium could be built in suburban locations such as Beaverton, or Vancouver, WA up in the air. Paulson sent the following letter to Mayor Adams and the city commissioners:
Nearly one year ago when we announced our desire to bring Major League Soccer to Portland at PGE Park and to build a new and better home for Beavers baseball in Portland , we made it clear that for the plan to succeed it needed to enjoy support from both city leaders and Portland residents. After all, professional soccer and baseball should bring people together, not only to strengthen our economy but to strengthen our community as well. Since announcing our plan we have been gratified by the broad-based support our plan has received from so many; sports fans, business leaders, neighborhood leaders, organized labor and elected officials from Portland and across the state.
While the city council has voted to support bringing MLS to Portland at PGE Park , securing a location and funding plan for a new Triple-A stadium in Portland has been difficult. The Portland Beavers are a Portland tradition â€“ with more than 100 years of history in this community. The recent challenges notwithstanding, Beavers baseball enjoys a strong following in this community, and in no way does the lack of public consensus about a new stadium for the Beavers reflect a lack of fan, sponsor and public support for Triple-A baseball.
Now, with the September 1 deadline to secure a funding plan to ready PGE Park for Major League Soccer fast approaching, it is critical that we reach an agreement to fund PGE Park improvements or risk losing the unique opportunity to bring MLS to Portland altogether. For this reason, and a lack of community support for a new Triple-A stadium in Lents, I am withdrawing our proposal for a Lents baseball stadium. I am grateful for the time and serious consideration the neighborhood leaders, city staff, elected officials and Lents residents have given this proposal the past few months, but it is now clear that the community-at-large has not embraced this idea.
Our immediate task ahead is to complete our agreement to bring MLS to Portland so we may begin play at PGE Park in 2011. As for the future of the Portland Beavers, I am committed to doing everything possible to keep in the Beavers in Portland or the Portland area. And I intend to work with area business, sports, government and community leaders to make that happen.
The economic, social and community good that will come from MLS and better Beavers baseball in our community is worth fighting for. Change is never easy, particularly during challenging times. But working together, I am confident we can seize this opportunity and overcome the challenges that remain to turning this idea into a reality for the people of our city, region and state.
Look for updates on this story as they become available.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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