PORTLAND, Ore. — Now that real money has been offered for two stadium sites in Portland, the baseball push is real.
But even more important than a stadium is a team.
Gerard Mildner, the Academic Director of the Portland State University Center for Real Estate, studies the movement of sports teams, and says there are many challenges to landing a new team.
“Well I think the first hurdle is finding a franchise owner who wants to move to Portland, Oregon,” he said. “We should also be aware that the franchises are probably using Portland to some extent as a backup plan and leverage to get improvements in their own stadiums.”
Mildner pointed out that the Portland area’s population size would make it harder for owners to make money than in a larger market.
There are incredible costs involved regardless of market size. A stadium would run from $500 million to $1 billion.
Then there’s the cost of buying a team, the cost of moving it, the cost of payroll before it starts making money again, and the cost of paying other teams for encroaching on their territory.
Len Bergstein helped lead the charge for major league baseball in Portland 22 years ago. He said it was very difficult.
“That’s why Vera Katz, when she was the mayor, god love her, immediately went to Phil Knight when she was doing this. She knew it was going to take a public-private cooperation at that level with a very well-funded, savvy owner,” Bergstein said.
The deal never came together.
Dan Saltzman is a Portland city commissioner who cast the deciding vote that brought Major League Soccer to Portland. He said it only worked because the owners had the wealth to keep most of the project off the backs of taxpayers.
“Had the team and had the resources to work with us and come up with a plan to renovate Providence Park — but the bulk of the expenditures have always been on the private side,” Saltzman said. He added that future deals would likely be similar.
Bergstein says it’s too soon to say the baseball plan will fail.
“So it’s a daunting list, but quite frankly if you want to do it, it’s the list you gotta do. There’s no reason, I think if you’re a baseball fan, that you don’t think that Portland and baseball are a match made in heaven,” said Bergstein.