Wannabe Portland MLB owners offer market-ish value to city for proposed stadium land

The investors seeking an MLB franchise for Portland, Oregon say they won’t seek additional public subsidies beyond a $150 million kickback of team income taxes that was already approved, and now they’ve offered to pay market value, kind of, for a school headquarters building that they want to make the site of a new stadium:

The Multnomah County assessor’s office estimates the school district headquarters has a market value of $105 million…

Trammell Crow, acting on behalf of the baseball group, said it would pay the school district at least $80 million — and even more if an appraisal finds its market value to be higher than $80 million.

That’s not bad! Though the school district may not want to sell even at that price, since right now its headquarters is centrally located, and the baseball group is offering to move it to a site way on the eastern edge of the city.

At least this rules out (for now) a major land subsidy as has become common among team owners promising “no public funds for construction.” The bigger question remains that $150 million state kickback of income taxes paid by team employees, which 1) was only projected to raise about half that much money when it was first proposed 15 years ago, though average MLB salaries have almost doubled since then; and 2) wouldn’t actually be all new money, as some of it would be drawn from income earned on spending that would otherwise go to other local entertainment options in the absence of a baseball team. (Some of it would be drawn from income on things like national TV rights, which would indeed be gravy.)

Still, that’s not a terrible deal for the public, all things considered. Assuming all things are being considered, anyway — Portland Diamond Project hasn’t revealed how much it would spend on a stadium, how it would pay for it, where it would get a team, or even who its owners are, though it’s been revealed that former Nike VP Craig Cheek is one of them. Score this one for now as “reply hazy, ask again later.”

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12 comments on “Wannabe Portland MLB owners offer market-ish value to city for proposed stadium land

  1. If you take MLB Commissioner Manfried at his word, he has said “Expansion will happen when the Oakland and Tampa Bay situations are straightened out.” I believe Tampa Bay is staying put ( based on value of their mew Fox Florida contract) . That leaves Oakland as a relocation possibility. That could be Portland or Montreal. If one gets the A’s the other geys an expansion team ( along with San Antonio), if the A’s remain in Oakland. Portland and Montreal are the expansion teams.Gut feeling: Oakland to Portland.

  2. @DavidBrown Some local PDX media created a bit of a brouhaha that baseball’s “dead” in Oakland. As someone who lives in the Bay Area, it’s undeniable that it’s tough to draw at the Coli on a cold early April Mon – Tues night but (as witnessed by the last week) A’s baseball does indeed have a pretty strong pulse. Re the possibility of the A’s moving… While not impossible, consider:

    * A’s focus is on two sites in Oakland. Current Coli site and Howard Terminal along the waterfront.
    * A’s and Oakland Mayor pushing Exclusive Negotiating Rights on both locations to get plan finalized.
    * A’s Ownership has shown no interest in selling, and currently has only vocalized an intention to stay in the Bay Area. Repeatedly expressed a desire to 100% privately finance the ballpark.
    * MLB’s preferred scenario is (as you mention) for Oak and TB to get worked out first.

    Not to say that Oakland relocation couldn’t happen, but it is the city of Oakland’s “to lose.” W/that being said, Oakland doesn’t have the greatest track record of getting things like this done. However, there will also be tremendous political pressure on elected officials to get something done in Oakland to keep at least ONE pro sports team and with the team’s on the field performance on the uptick, it’s more likely that Portland gets an expansion team vs. the A’s.

    If it’s 12 months later and the A’s are still at the ‘drawing board’ stage, then the Portland opportunity will gain momentum.

    1. I agree Damon. The A’s are a long way from being the best supported team in the league, but they aren’t last in support either. When the team is competitive (not necessarily contending), people do come to watch even in the old ballpark. Unlike the Rays and Marlins, for example.

      For the reasons you’ve stated, I find it likely that a stadium/land deal will get done. MLB has also been pretty clear that they don’t want to move teams if there is still a deal to be made in the current host city. I think there is a deal to be made in Oakland, though not as lucrative as some others made in the past. The stadium shakedown game may not have been turned upside down (as some of us would like), but it is fair to say that the utterly disgraceful deals of the first decade of this century appear to be a thing of the past.

      Also… when we think of this from Manfred’s position, it makes sense to keep the A’s where they are (unless the city adopts a “stay where you are or leave, we don’t care” approach). If there is a legitimate possibility of expansion money from Portland (or San Jose), Montreal or New Jersey (some hope) to share with other owners, then why would he push an existing team to relocate? It’s not like anyone is losing money as things stand. Make the best deal you can in Tampa/Oakland, and then harvest expansion cash from the new markets (where possible).

      I still believe that if Wolff and Fisher had been willing to pay a significant amount for SJ, they could have gone there. Instead they asked Selig to “rule on it” (which we assumed means, either give SJ ‘back’ to us or set a fee which we must pay MLB to get there).

      It’s possible the Giants – if asked – would have refused to pick a number, but in doing so they risk having their ownership partners pick a number for them.

      The Raiders may have helped the A’s and city of Oakland far more than anyone else in this whole situation. Vegas’ loss…

  3. I’d be very surprised if Portland gets the A’s (and I’ve been following the MLB drama unfold in both cities for the past 20-ish years).

    My guess is that if Portland and Montreal can put together viable deals, that ends up helping Oakland and TB to get deals done, and then expansion to 32 teams kicks in.

    Since Manfred specifically called out the desirability of another West Coast team, I think that leaves San Antonio behind in the running for baseball (but not for the NFL).

    1. That’s a very reasonable MLB scenario — use Portland and Montreal as leverage to get stadium deals done in Tampa and Oakland, and then reward them with expansion franchises for their utility — and actually makes sense from a “What cities could support teams?” perspective as well. I just hope that it doesn’t end up with four different cities being shaken down for stadium funding, though of course that’s exactly what I expect it will end up with.

      1. I agree Neil, there will likely be a shakedown. Not sure how MLB will shake down Portland any further given their relative antipathy to stadium subsidies. Hotel tax is theoretically possible but there would be hurdles and resistance for sure.

      2. If the stalking horse expansion cities help to extract better deals from Oakland and Tampa, it counts.

        From Manfred’s (and his employers’) POV, 2 x $1bn expansion fees + $400m in stadium contributions for two existing franchises is better than two relocation fees (one for a team in Canada that has failed before and does nothing for the US tv contracts) and possible stadium contributions alone.

        At least until there are no other possible MLB markets available to tap (insert MLS ponzi scheme joke here), the game Manfred/Selig have played here is completely rational.

        While I can’t defend these types of shakedowns, the fact is that no city is forced to play this game. They choose to for political or other reasons.

  4. @Greg I also think this is the most likely scenario. I think that Portland and MTL would be great additions to MLB

  5. With almost 8 million people, it would be hard to leave the Bay Area with just one team. With all the corporate HQs there. MLB would be leaving a lot of untapped money. (admittedly they already are by not having a properly functioning Oakland team.)

  6. We’re not hearing much regarding a possible A’s relocation to Portland here in the East Bay. Portland, like Sacramento, seems like a one team town. Howard Terminal and the current Coliseum site remain the focus (and I love the idea of a tram for HT – its unique and has the cool factor no other franchise aka the Giants can offer). And I can assure those of you outside of the Bay Area that if the A’s can pull off something the Giants cannot match, it would be huge.

    1. Not sure Portland and Sacramento are that similar given Sac’s proximity to the Bay Area. I think Sac is a great candidate for MLS though – hope it happens (without the taxpayers getting hosed).

      1. Also worth noting Portland is considerably more prosperous than Sacramento. The latest numbers I could find were 2015 where metro PDX had a GDP of $158B and metro Sacto $118B. There’s just more money flying around Portland for ticket sales, advertisers, corporate boxes, etc. etc.

        That said both compare favorably to, say, Milwaukee.

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