Portland: We’ll do MLS stadium with or without baseball

Hours before more than 100 people rallied in protest of a Portland Beavers minor-league baseball stadium in their neighborhood of Lents, Mayor Sam Adams and city commissioner Randy Leonard threw the project under the bus, declaring that they’ll back converting PGE Park for soccer for the expansion Timbers regardless of whether the Beavers get a new home. This likely means the Timbers deal will get done — commissioner Dan Saltzman, the swing vote on the city council, has opposed the soccer stadium because of concerns about the baseball plans — but also could mean the Beavers would have to move if the Lents stadium plan falls through: “I don’t see another option,” said Mayor Adams.

Of course, there’s always the much-discussed option of having the Timbers and Beavers share digs at PGE, saving millions of dollars on building duplicate facilities. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said he doesn’t want to do that, but he’s going to say that, obviously — he has no incentive to shack up with a baseball team if he doesn’t want to. The only way to test whether he’d actually rescind the Timbers franchise rather than share space is to make the demand and see what happens. Not that Mayor Adams is likely to do that, but you don’t get if you don’t ask…

Portland study: New ballpark site blows

Another city-backed study of the proposed Portland Beavers minor-league baseball stadium is out, and it looks just as promising as the last one: A stadium in Lents Park, according to consultants HVS International, would have lower attendance and revenue and provide less visitor spending in the immediate neighborhood than the previously considered downtown site, thanks to being way out in the boonies and surrounded by a residential neighborhood. City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who has opposed the downtown site and holds the swing vote on approving the baseball stadium — which is being sought by Beavers owner Merritt Paulson so their current stadium can be converted for his expansion Timbers soccer franchise — told The Oregonian that he planned to make the report “my weekend reading.”

Portland study: Stadium would destroy jobs

Another day, another economic consulting report making glowing claims about the jobs created by new stadiums … er, what’s that you say, Portland Mercury?

Mayor [Sam] Adams’ office asked consulting firm ECONorthwest on Monday, May 11, to figure out the number of jobs the Beavers stadium construction would create in Portland. The mayor gave ECONorthwest only one working day to turn around the study, but its results were not good news for the mayor’s office or the stadium plan: While the ballpark construction would create 453 jobs during construction, the $49 million total investment would actually create a net loss of 182 jobs citywide.

“If those individuals who put their money into baseball via taxes are allowed to put that money into the private market, that same amount of money would actually yield more jobs,” explains ECONorthwest number-cruncher Abe Farkas. The study also showed that 67 percent of the construction jobs would go to people who do not live in the City of Portland.

You will not be surprised to learn that this report never saw the light of day — the Mercury only finally obtained it from the city yesterday. For their part, Mayor Adams’ office charged their consultants with making “seriously faulty underlying assumptions,” including that residents would get to keep their urban-renewal tax dollars if they didn’t go to the stadium. While this is a fair criticism, it’s worth noting that urban renewal money would presumably be spent elsewhere if not on a stadium, an opportunity cost that the ECONorthwest study (downloadable here) doesn’t attempt to quantify; and if other taxes ultimately have to be raised to support whatever other project doesn’t get the stadium money, then the study’s numbers pan out. (For his part, Farkas said he made reasonable assumptions, given the one-day turnaround required.)

While one city commissioner called for a new report, the mayor’s office nixed that idea, saying it would take up to a month and cause them to miss Major League Soccer’s deadline for a Timbers stadium, which is coming up in … September. But still, it’s got to be better to act first, and ask questions later, right?