The Portland Timbers will indeed become the 18th MLS franchise in 2011, the league announced yesterday, two days after announcing the Vancouver Whitecaps as the league’s 17th team. “A city with such a storied soccer tradition deserves an MLS team, and we are proud to have Portland join the top level of professional soccer,” declared MLS commissioner Don Garber, adding: “The renovations of PGE Park was a key factor in Portland becoming our 18th team.”
Now all they need is a way to pay for those renovations, which — along with money to build a new baseball stadium for the minor-league Beavers once PGE is converted to soccer-only — are expected to cost $88.8 million. About $75 million in funding is in place, a bit under half of it public funds, but a $15 million gap remains. Possible sources, according to The Oregonian, include “revisiting the idea of an urban renewal area, finding savings in construction, creating new fees on development around the stadiums and taxing nearby bars and restaurants that might profit on game days.” No one is saying who pays if the added $15 million isn’t found, let alone what happens to the franchise if the PGE renovations aren’t complete by 2011.
UPDATE: Garber now has said what happens to the franchise if the stadium deal doesn’t get done: “Then we won’t be able to have an MLS team in Portland.” So apparently the expansion team really is conditional on stadium funding.