Would-be Portland MLB owner must start paying for would-be stadium land, or go back to drawing board

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.


13 comments on “Would-be Portland MLB owner must start paying for would-be stadium land, or go back to drawing board

  1. They will pay it. They knew what the terms were when they negotiated them and they knew not much would change in the meantime. Heck they have the same attorney as the Rays so they know exactly what’s going on.

    I know some people love to clown on PDP and yes some of the rendering details are silly, but this is a patient and deep pocketed group that is in for the long haul. The group has gone too far to walk away now and they also view the site as a real estate play, not just a stadium play. I think their chances of getting a team in the next 10 years are maybe 30-40% (Cheek said 25% in an interview a while back) but they are going for it anyway.

    Also, PDP knows that Portland does not build sports stadiums and that they are going to have to pay for over 80%+ of this themselves, and yet they are still moving forward. In an era where 50%+ of stadium costs are paid for by the public, this is at least a step in the right direction (though I’d agree it’s not enough).

    • Who are the deep pockets in PDP? Is Craig Cheek a billionaire? I know Wilson just signed a new contract but 750k annually just to hold a site is still a significant chunk of change.

      • They have $1.3b in commitments from minority investors (local). Majority investor has not been revealed publicly but the local pols and MLB knows who it is, and they are working cooperatively. MLB doesn’t like flashy outsiders who are publicly begging for a team. PDP has sunk a lot of $$ building a group, networking, and nurturing grass roots support. No way does the next payment on lease rights stop them now.

        I don’t mean to sound like a shill; I think they have a decent chance at a team but it’s far from certain. My point is that the people who are dumbing this down into a rinky dink operation fronted by Russell Wilson who will run scared from a lease payment that THEY NEGOTIATED FOR aren’t paying attention at all.

        • Interesting, are there any rumors who the majority owner might be? Used to live around Portland and it seems like there are only so many Oregon-residing billionaires.

          • I’ve heard a few rumors that it may be either SoCal money or NoCal money, but PDP is very tight lipped about it (for good reason). I doubt if the majority investor is local – billionaires tend to steer clear of Oregon residency due to the tax structure.

  2. The city is well known for supporting a heavily subsidized women’s soccer professional team; I seriously doubt the demographics for a three million (lets be realistic about what it takes to be successful in MLB) paid attendance baseball team add up if that is representative of the population.

    • “…three million (lets be realistic about what it takes to be successful in MLB) paid attendance…”

      But that’s not at all realistic. In each of the last three seasons less than one-quarter of teams (seven each year) has surpassed 3M in home attendance. Very few of the other 23 cases, if any, can legitimately claim to be unsuccessful businesses.

      • Missed this: And with a 32,000 seat stadium, 3 million is impossible (max would be 2,592,000).

        • Yeah…I guess you could say the KC Royals won the series and were successful, but look at them now…

          Cards, LA, Yanks, Cubs…they all pull spectators, and are successful both on and off the field. Just because the Reds are making money doesn’t make them successful, they’re getting cuts of every Yankees and Dodgers caps sold.

  3. Portland will get a MLB team when Hillary becomes President………….of MLB…In other words, not gonna happen. Atlanta has a better chance of getting a 2nd MLB team than Portland has getting just one.

  4. Paying $2-3m to secure the option(s) on the land for a few years while other details are worked out (or at least identified) should not be a problem for any group that is serious about an MLB team.

    Tend to agree with Greg here, there isn’t much to see… if the group is real and has anything like the backing they claim, they’ll be spending more on legal and MLB related travel than they do on land options over the next 3-5 years. There should be no problem with paying the option carriage costs.

    If the land turns out to be “not viable” as a site for a small MLB stadium, well, then the option shouldn’t be maintained very long should it?

  5. Neil,
    As much as I east, drink and bleed a team in Portland and Montreal. NOBODY should go into a business with the intent of writing a blank check. They should demand MLB drop the stipulation that the Tampa situation be resolved before they can expand. Your just throwing away money and people’s hope.

  6. I love a good public stadium cash extortion scheme as much as the next guy… well ok, maybe a lot more than the next guy but that’s beside the point. But baseball? Yeesh. You could round up taxpayer cash so much faster pretending the NFL might land in Portland, even though it won’t.