PORTLAND, Ore. -- Some eight years after a previous effort fizzled out, another drive has emerged to bring a Major League Baseball team to Portland.
A loosely formed group that includes noted architect Barry Smith and Lynn Lashbrook, founder of Sports Management Worldwide, who’s worked with previous Portland Major League Baseball efforts, is leading the charge. The supporters have hit City Hall to push their cause, meeting with representatives from Mayor Charlie Hales’ office as well as several city commissioners’ aides.
Portland was believed to be a finalist during 2004 and 2005 for the Montreal Expos, which eventually moved to Washingon, D.C.
Hales has yet to formally weigh in. Supporters want the city’s buy-in because they believe the city-owned Veterans Memorial Coliseum, in Portland’s Rose Quarter, would be a logical stadium site.
That alone is a complicating factor. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. The Portland Historical Landmarks Commission must approve any plans for significant changes to the building.
A Major League Baseball spokesman said while Commissioner Bud Selig’s office doesn’t comment on relocation, Portland’s viability as an MLB market hasn’t lately been discussed within the league’s offices.
Lashbrook and Smith point out that partial funding, through a 2003 measure that would steer $150 million worth of team employee income taxes toward stadium construction bonds, is available. They’ve also met with baseball insiders who’ve toured the site and city and deemed it acceptable.
Smith has even designed a schematic for the Coliseum site that would include extending the Eastbank Esplanade northward and incorporating it into a stadium design. He views the plan as a way to reinvigorate the Rose Quarter area, which has been the subject of endless planning discussions as the city attempts to address the neighborhood’s sluggish growth.
Supporters also note that Portland — the 24th largest metropolitan statistical area in the U.S., according to the 2010 Census — is the largest U.S. city with only one of the top four big-league sports franchises.
“Portland is a growing Western city,” said Smith. “We’re the largest media market that doesn’t have MLB. We’re bigger than Kansas City and Pittsburgh.”
The Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays are believed to be top relocation candidates. The Rays finished last in the majors in attendance during 2013 despite fielding a playoff team. The A’s finished No. 23 out of 30 MLB teams despite winning the American League West division title.
The Portland Business Journal is a KATU.com news partner.
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