How’s that Portland baseball stadium with the tram and the private beer taps but no actual team or money to pay construction costs going, you’re wondering? Let’s check in on the plans, courtesy of The Oregonian, aka Portland’s city newspaper by default even if it’s mostly staffed by empty desks these days:
By the end of the month, the pro baseball boosters could have to start paying the Port of Portland hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the exclusive negotiating rights to the Northwest Portland terminal where they hope to build a 32,000-seat stadium. The bill for the first three months will come to $375,000.
It’s definitely time to get serious, then: $750,000 a year is a chunk of change to pay just to keep dibs on a site that may or may not ever get a stadium for a team that may or may not ever exist. (Reminder: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said that there won’t be any expansion until the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays get new stadiums, and the latter, at least, seems unlikely before 2027ish.) So is the Portland Diamond Project — main owner, former Nike exec Craig Cheek, main names added to the group’s “leadership” page to sex it up, Russell and Ciara Wilson — ready to make a commitment?
The Diamond Project has only just begun to sort out thorny issues around transportation and zoning that could keep the field just a dream…
Marshall Runkel, chief of staff for City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the city’s Transportation Bureau, said there’s been little progress in addressing the challenge of getting thousands of fans to and from the games.
“It still looks very difficult or impossible from a transportation standpoint to make Terminal 2 work,” Runkel said.
That’s not so good.
There are plenty of questions still unanswered, including who would pay for the venture. The group has shown Mayor Ted Wheeler pledges from big-money investors, but it hasn’t released their names.
That’s also not so good.
Prediction here, based on no inside info other than a gut feeling about how these things usually go: As we get closer to the end of May, Cheek will try to negotiate an extension on the land option, maybe paying a smaller amount to push back the decision date by a few months. Given that nothing much is expected to happen in the next few months, though — maybe the Rays owner will make some kind of statement about where he’s hoping to build a new stadium, but that won’t make a new Rays stadium appear overnight — it’s hard to see what that would get Cheek other than delaying the inevitable. At some point, he’s going to have to decide whether being able to wave “We’ve got a stadium site!” in front of a nonexistent MLB expansion committee is worth paying $750,000 a year to reserve a site that may not even be a good one for a baseball stadium; if he punts and throws a dart at a map to pick another pretend site, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised by that either.