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MarkDaMan Jan 19, 2007 8:51 PM

ESPN: MLB in Portland just makes sense
Relocating a team to Portland makes sense
By Phil Rogers
Special to

The idea of baseball in Portland, Ore., is new for a lot of people. But it has been a lifetime habit for Boston Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, and he's 87 years old.

Pesky was born in 1919 and grew up following his hometown Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. He has spent most of his life on the opposite coast, but is intrigued by the movement to bring the Florida Marlins or another major league baseball franchise to Portland.

"What Portland always had was good fans,'' Pesky said in a 2006 interview. "I haven't been back in five years, and the growth has been phenomenal … Portland is bigger than more than a few other cities that host major league baseball. Why shouldn't Portland have a club? I think they should get a shot. I think Portland will have a team in three or four years.''

Then again, if the Marlins solve their stadium issues in Miami and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays find a way to become competitive, it could be another 34 years before MLB moves another one of its teams. That's how many seasons passed between the shifting of the Washington Senators to Arlington, Texas, and the move of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C.

But whether it's by relocation or another as-yet-unforeseen round of expansion, history says the makeup of the MLB membership won't stay the same for too long. Since the Dodgers and Giants moved west in 1958, the sport hasn't gone longer than 16 years without adding or moving teams, averaging an expansion or relocation every eight years.

Look for Portland, a jewel of a city in the shadow of Mt. Hood and near Oregon's scenic coast, to be ready when the next movement comes.

It has already earmarked $150 million for a public-private stadium partnership -- financed in part by a highly creative plan diverting the income taxes of major league players and executives of Portland's new team to retire stadium bonds -- with seven potential stadium sites, including three along the Williamette River downtown. While that stadium is being built, the Beavers' PGE Park could be expanded to about 25,000 seats to accommodate a speedy transition for an existing team, like the Marlins.

Pesky is right about the size of the Portland area compared to some cities that have had MLB franchises for a long time.

"If you took the Pittsburgh stadium and put it in Portland, then Portland would be a stronger market than Pittsburgh,'' economist Andrew Zimbalist told The (Portland) Oregonian last year.

With a population of about 2 million, Portland ranks as the 24th largest metro area in the United States. That's ahead of Cincinnati (25), Kansas City (27) and Milwaukee (37) and right behind Pittsburgh (21), Denver (22) and Cleveland (23). Nielsen ranks the Portland market 23rd, up from 24th a year ago (it passed Buffalo), and way ahead of Kansas City (31), Milwaukee (33) and Cincinnati (34).

Perhaps the most appealing thing about the Portland market is that it currently counts the NBA's Trail Blazers as the only franchises from sports' four basic alphabet groups (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB).

According to math by the Portland Baseball Group, only Los Angeles and New York have a higher ratio of population to major sports franchises. San Diego is the only bigger metro area that doesn't have at least three teams, and it has the big two in the NFL and MLB.

A Portland franchise would be positioned to receive civic and corporate support. Adidas, which has its 352,000-square foot headquarters in North Portland, has supported the push to bring an MLB franchise to the city. Nike, based in nearby Beaverton, might join the battle for naming rights to the new ballpark.

If the Marlins did wind up moving there, MLB could also realign in a way that makes more geographic sense.

Tampa Bay could move to the National League, where it might develop a rivalry with Atlanta, with Portland's team joining Seattle in the American League West. Texas could be shifted to the AL Central -- a change it was promised more than a decade ago -- and Detroit could move to the AL East. Nothing happens easily, or quickly, in MLB, but this makes sense.

Next in line

Las Vegas: Mayor Oscar Goodman has made the acquisition of a major league franchise a top priority, even bringing a group of showgirls to baseball's winter meetings. The reality lags behind the aggressive marketing, however. Some have a perception that Las Vegas is America's boomtown, but it's hardly Phoenix. It's 31st in the size of metro areas and 48th among television markets. None of the four major sports leagues have been willing to court scandal by moving into a city built on the back of gambling, and it doesn't seem likely baseball will be the first.

San Antonio: The Marlins seriously explored their options in the central Texas city last year, but city officials were turned down when they forced owner Jeffrey Loria to make a quick decision about a stadium offer. This was a major relief to the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers, who weren't excited about a third franchise in their state. Mayor Phil Hardberger correctly points to the size of the San Antonio TV market (37th) as a major drawback for bringing a second big-league franchise to a city that is home to the NBA's Spurs.

Charlotte: Like Portland, Charlotte is on its way up. Its TV market ranks 27th, gaining a place in the latest rankings, and it is home to nine Fortune 500 companies. The Minnesota Twins flirted with a move to Charlotte in 1998. But saturation provides the same problem here as in Indianapolis, as the NFL and the NBA beat MLB to the market. A structure remains in place to build a 40,000 seat baseball stadium, but it could be a long time until one is needed.

Northern New Jersey: A third team in the New York/New Jersey market is an intriguing idea, and might be the best way for other franchises to slow the two powerful New York teams. But Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Mets owner Fred Wilpon would oppose any move to bring a team here at least as adamantly as Orioles owner Peter Angelos did the Expos' relocation to Washington, D.C., and no one has stepped forward to challenge the Yankees and Mets.

Orlando: In a dream world, you'd bulldoze Dolphin Stadium and Tropicana Field and merge Florida's two weak franchises into one, based in the middle of the state. Orlando's TV market is 20th, larger even than Portland, and Disney-based tourism would give an Orlando team some natural advantages. The Devil Rays are playing a regular-season series at Disney World this season, but it's hard to see how MLB unravels its Florida mess to land in the Magic Kingdom.

Norfolk, Va.: Briefly floated as an option for the Expos when the Washington bid was in turmoil, city officials have had talks with the Marlins. Few take it seriously.

Phil Rogers is the national baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune, which has a Web site at His book, "Say It's So," a story about the 2005 White Sox, is available at bookstores, through or by direct order from Triumph Books (800-222-4657).

Dougall5505 Jan 19, 2007 8:58 PM

a stadium next to the rose garden could be a huge catalyst to new development in lloyd
look it even has sowa in this render

M'sFan Jan 19, 2007 8:59 PM

If Portland were to get the Marlins, contrary to the article I would hope they would stay in the NL, then we could see all the teams every year.

360Rich Jan 19, 2007 9:21 PM


It has already earmarked $150 million for a public-private stadium partnership -- financed in part by a highly creative plan diverting the income taxes of major league players and executives of Portland's new team to retire stadium bonds --
For the purposes of full disclosure, I'm a sports fan and would love to see the area get an additional professional sports team.

However, my first reaction is that it seems it would be destined to make the team uncompetitive, and ultimately not financially viable.

If there is an additional tax on players salaries, the Portland team would have a harder time attracting top tier free agents. (Why would a player who is looking for a big payday sign with a team that taxes his earnings more than another team?)

If you can't sign top tier talent, the chances of fielding a winning team diminishes, which leads to few fans in the seats, which ultimately leads to the team requiring some sort of public subsidy to keep operating (similar to the role the city of Portland had with the renovation of PGE Park a few years ago).

pdxtraveler Jan 19, 2007 9:28 PM

If I understand the tax correctly, it redirects the existing tax to stadium bonds, not an additional tax.

I do like the Rose Quarter site, but also very partial to the post office site.

360Rich Jan 19, 2007 9:34 PM


Originally Posted by pdxtraveler (Post 2575370)
If I understand the tax correctly, it redirects the existing tax to stadium bonds, not an additional tax.

That would make a lot more sense. I'll poke around the internet and see what I can find :)

MarkDaMan Jan 19, 2007 10:10 PM

The State of Oregon's 2002 legislature authorized the City of Portland to collect the income tax from player and workers that would work within a stadium boundry. Like urban renewal, bonds would be issued, and the increase in tax revenue from the new workers (or in the renewal sense, higher property taxes collected due to higher property values) would be directed back into the stadium to pay off the bonds.

The State however did not authorize the city or sports authority to back bonds for the entire stadium even if a financing plan could be worked out.

zilfondel Jan 20, 2007 1:36 AM

The Rose Garden site is at least near the MAX line - no mass transit very close to the post office. However, if they ever do build another stadium near the Rose Garden, they had BETTER pony up a ton of money to fix the pedestrian craptitude in the area and get a BUNCH of money to help spur revitalization around it, otherwise it's going to be as shitty as ever.

Hint: like what San Diego did.

roner Jan 20, 2007 1:55 AM

I'm soooooo on board with MLB is PDX. I would love to take the MAX on a warm summer night to watch a game and sip some cheap beer with friends. I miss MLB games. The post office or next to the Rose Garden work for me.

James Bond Agent 007 Jan 20, 2007 3:00 AM

No!!!! Portland belongs to the Mariners! :mad:

thewack Jan 20, 2007 4:02 AM

Why don't the Mariners just play a few regular season games in Portland a year? They aren't as good as they used to be and selling out Safeco Field. Why not have them expand their fan base in the Northwest and have them play a few games here?

roner Jan 20, 2007 4:58 AM

uh, with all due respect, Portland has no need for the Mariners. We want the Beavers!

James Bond Agent 007 Jan 20, 2007 5:47 AM

No. You can't have them. :mad:

James Bond Agent 007 Jan 20, 2007 5:48 AM

BTW since we're on this topic, how many people in Portland do actually pay attention to the Mariners? :???:

Dougall5505 Jan 20, 2007 5:59 AM

i do

EastPDX Jan 20, 2007 7:52 AM

MLB to PDX ...
... has been a process for me the last few years (for others its going on a decade). I spoke to the state senators and representatives at Grant High School back in 2003(?) when Senate Bill 5 was still in question. We at OSC are now at the point of "when" not "if" and we can only wait to see what MLB does next.

NHL to PDX might be done first since both Pittsburgh and Nashville are having issues.

If a perfect sports storm hit PDX, I would see MLB at the Rose Quarter; then MSL at PGE Park; then NFL in Lents, then NHL to complete the Rose Garden schedule. But perfection isn't in the cards. So my prediction is for NHL; then MSL; then NFL; and finally MLB to PDX.

Personally, I really like using the Blanchard site for MLB but that is my opinion. The Memorial Coliseum site should at some point turn into something for the whole region (superior location at the river bend) like a sports hall of fame, observation deck using center court as the base for the tower, a train station for High Speed Rail, and a 365/24/7 Marketplace.

BB at OSC website

James Bond Agent 007 Jan 20, 2007 8:07 AM

The writer of the article forgot to say anything about one other metro - Salt Lake. Seems to me that one should also be in the hunt.

pdxtex Jan 20, 2007 9:00 AM

portland has more then enough outdoor distractions in the summer time. we need something for the cave dwellers like me in the winter. bring the NHL here instead!!!

westsider Jan 20, 2007 9:30 AM


Originally Posted by James Bond Agent 007 (Post 2576404)
BTW since we're on this topic, how many people in Portland do actually pay attention to the Mariners? :???:

I couldnt care less. Red Sox all the way!!

thewack Jan 20, 2007 2:29 PM

Could we trade the jail Blazers for an MLB franchise?

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