Like Montreal, Portland wants in

The lovely city of Portland, Oregon, expressed renewed interest in a MLB franchise this week. It’s been a decade since Portland lost out to Washington, DC, in the race to land the relocating Expos. In the offing, Portland traded its AAA baseball team for an MLS franchise, to rousing success. At the same time, multiple sites that were considered for a permanent baseball home ended up being developed for other uses. While a short season A team started up in the nearby suburb of Hillsboro, until now there has been little momentum towards attracting an MLB franchise.

Tracy Ringolsby has details on a renewed effort. New mayor Charlie Hales supports a site next to the two arenas at the Rose Quarter. Instead of an open air stadium, the plans now call for a retractable roof park with a smaller, 35,000-seat capacity. A funding mechanism that could pay for much of construction remains in place, though rising costs and the including of that retractable roof probably would cause PDX advocates to majorly revise the plan.

Most importantly, Portland interests have inquired with A’s ownership to see if they’d be willing to either move the team to PDX or sell to PDX-aligned interests. As expected, they were told no on both counts. Sacramento, Portland, and maybe in the past Las Vegas have inquired. Lew Wolff and John Fisher remain focused on the Bay Area, refusing to play the stadium ransom game. Someone had to temerity to brag about swindling the public earlier this week:

The Portland effort bears striking similarities to Montreal’s recently launched efforts. Both underestimate the cost of the stadium and the cost to acquire a franchise. Montreal’s study pegs the total cost at just over $1 billion, which would’ve been a better bet three or four years ago, during the recession and before the new national TV contracts. It’s hard to see any team being available for less than $600 million, maybe even $700 million because the revenue streams are so attractive. That would put the total cost at a combined $1.2 billion, maybe $1.3 billion when including infrastructure and land. Both cities also appear to be dependent on a rich investor group or corporation to fund the private side. That’s a lot to ask for, essentially a subsidy to be borne by a company. Guggenheim Partners made the overbid work because they had two things in their pocket: a to-be-negotiated local TV deal and 100 acres of land with huge development potential at Dodger Stadium. Neither Montreal nor Portland have such potential. Both teams stand a good chance of being future revenue sharing recipients, even with new ballparks in place.

With both the Rays and A’s entrenched in their current stadium malaise, it’ll be up to the next to the next commissioner to determine if Portland or Montreal gain entry to MLB. The new TV contracts are in their infancy, so the owners are only starting to see the benefits. At this point, it’s unlikely they’ll want to split up the pie 32 ways instead of 30.

39 thoughts on “Like Montreal, Portland wants in

  1. I wonder which team Portland has in mind? Oakland’s “the A’s have no place to go” mantra may be tested very soon.

  2. With the Sacramento Kings saga coming to an end… I believe Kevin Johnson’s next move will be to get the Oakland A’s to move to Sacramento.. If the owner is willing to move here. He has said he wants to stay in Northern California.. So if there’s no San Jose, I would think he may be interested.

    • @Joel – Wolff has said many times that Sacramento’s not in the picture. Besides the problems with the market’s corporate strength for MLB, Wolff’s good friends with the River Cats ownership and doesn’t want to ruin their good thing.

  3. @Marine Layer
    Yeah I know Wolff has said that many times.. But he has had his hopes on San Jose during those times… If seems like he is running out of options. Plus he does have the money to finance his stadium as he has stated…. Will be interesting what plans he has.

    • @Joel – It’s far more likely that he’d sell the team. The Bay Area is a big deal because that’s where his family is, and he wants to leave the team to them. Sacramento’s too far for that.

  4. I thought the deal was Sacto would only pursue the A’s if the Kings leave?

  5. @pjk
    There was a new article recently that interviewed Kevin Johnson. He said himself that after the Kings, he would reach out to Wolff to scope his interest. Basically saying that May be his next move.

  6. This is not good news, but perhaps it can light a fire, under someone’s ass

  7. Joel,
    The A’s aren’t going to Sac. You guys may soon get a spanking new downtown arena for the Kings to call home for years to come; be satisfied with that. BTW, is there still water in the Sacramento River?

  8. OT: 10 more @$&% years at the Coliseum?! Please say it ain’t so RM. And NO! East Bay/Oakland officials have absolutely no power to “pressure” Wolff in selling or building in Oakland…NONE WHATSOEVER.

  9. A 10 year lease- So CC must have an alternative location for the raiders stadium- or is LW trying to get them to choose a’s over theRaiders or are theRaiders headed out of town- I havea hard time believing that LW will be ok with being phase III of CC-

  10. Wonder how much longer Wolff will keeps spurning places like Portland that express interest. Especially with PDX being one of the faster growing markets in the country and not really in anyone’s territory to block.

  11. And I’m with Tony. 10 more years in that toilet bowl in South Oakland?

  12. @Dan: Wolff will be much more likely build a new ballpark in the CC before moving the team to Portland, Sac, Las Vegas, etc (all offer small MLB fanbases – very similiar in size to current struggling small market MLB franchises) Wolff has expressed in interest in the Coliseum City, one would believe that is not a bluff. The only way the A’s could move the team to one of those proposed small market cities is if a mega-bucks guy such as the CEO of Nike were make a ridickulous offer for the A’s – afterwards then be willing to gamble losing millions per year by moving the A’s to Portland. Given the track record of small market MLB teams struggling financially – a move to Portland, Las Vegas, etc. is not attractive to prospective MLB owners.

  13. @duffer,
    I believe Wolff backtracked on those comments re building at CC; stated talks with JPA/Oakland only related to current lease. Why do I get this feeling that Cisco Field won’t be happening in 2018?…

  14. Several months ago the Raiders began putting their cards on the table. Especially when they said they wanted to keep the existing Coliseum footprint. It’s easy for someone like Quan to point at Wolff and tell him he’s the one who has to make the choice when you don’t have to make too many high profile public choices of your own when it comes to the sports teams. You can claim you got all the ideas in the world and their all viable options if everyone else was amendable to them. This has the potential to change things.

    If LW begins talking about a long term lease at the Coliseum, it puts the onus on the city and county to start making the big decisions. It means that they have to address to the debt situation, the additional infrastructure costs, potential cost overruns to the tax payer and be expected to explain why that’s the best use of public money, even if it’s not going directly towards stadium costs. Just today, mayoral candidate Bryan Parker said he didn’t even like the idea of $3 mil being spent on studies for Coliseum City. That’s nothing compared to future expenses.

    Also, why the most ardent supporters of Coliseum City may point out there’s more than enough land for 2 new venues, which there is, that would mean reworking the power grid for the site. That’s not a hurdle that can’t be overcome, but it’s another expensive hurdle. And if you saw the joint city and county meeting regarding Coliseum City, it will be a big issue. It’s one of the reasons the Raiders want to keep the current footprint.

    Stories like the one’s from Portland and Montreal probably won’t light a fire under anyone in Oakland. But if LW were willing to negotiate a long term lease at the Coliseum, this brings up new questions. Where will the A’s play if the Raiders keep the current footprint? Would an extended A’s lease send the Raiders packing out of town? And on and on…

    But most importantly, these questions would mostly have to be worked out by the city and county and the not some 3 man blue ribbon committee.

    The best way to keep the A’s in Oakland is to have the Raiders leave town. But I’m not sure that’s the most popular option in the East Bay. But I do hope LW is at least willing to negotiate the possibility of staying at the Coliseum. The Raiders seem to be willing to show their cards, and this has the potential to force the city and county to show their cards. Their financial cards. Those are the cards that matter. When that happens, this situation might finally come to an end. But I could be wrong. We’ll see.

  15. I don’t expect this to ever end.

  16. Well said Jeffrey

  17. @muppet,
    Interesting re the power grid at the Coli. So it wouldn’t be a simple case of just turning up dirt in the South lot and erecting steel. Would cost major $$ to rework the grid. Still…Possibly 10 more years at the Coliseum? !! Really wish I could be present in Lew Wolff’s war room because none of this crap makes sense…

  18. @pjk and tony d
    fellas looks like the Oakland only crowd wins. The stall/ anti public funding build your own stadium wins.. look this is how Coliseum City is going to work…at the cheapest

    -Warriors at Oracle Arena…maybe some exterior and interior work done

    -Raiders at the Coliseum to themselves for a few years plus maybe more coliseum land toward the south end for parking/development rights..future stadium is possible 60/40

    -A’s build your own ballpark…”but we will come toward north end of Coliseum land approx along 66th ave. Possible 35,000 smallest mlb ballpark plus what little land left for development goes to Wolff

    Malik/Colony Capital…fill in the rest with office and retail space…

    As a plus all the teams have their own place. The excitement of Wolff new ballpark should sell out easily plus BART/BUS is there. ..San Jose fought hard but when S.F and Oakland teamed up and looks like they won.

    • @harry – Coliseum City calls for the arena to be demolished and the Warriors moving to a new arena on the other side of the Nimitz. Why? To provide more space for the Raiders and BayIG to develop. This is not some happily-ever-after dream you’re constructing for yourself.

  19. ML: What do you think Wolff is up to with the 5- and 10-year extension for the Coliseum? Telling MLB that as long as it wants to reject San Jose, it can bask in another decade of $35 million+ subsidies in Oakland? Is Wolff try8ng to force MLB’s hand? We all know this so-called ownership group that wants to build at HT will back off once presented with the realities of that site.

  20. @harry,
    Whatever you say, it’s your world (reside in it as you see fit..)

  21. @RM,
    PHASE THREE?!! Talk about a bad way to start a beautiful Saturday. If (and I still think it’s a big if) San Jose isn’t going to happen, isn’t it better to go back to Fremont and still get a piece of all that Silicon Valley cash in the waiting? No to SJ doesn’t have to mean yes to Oakland. Just go north across Dixon Landing road and it’s all good. Big box stores and/or NIMBYS in Fremont could be dealt with; better than dealing with Oakland pols and lack of corporate cash. Man this shit sucks…

  22. One thing that I recall standing out from the joint Alameda County/Oakland representatives meeting on the CC project was the repeated concerns and questions raised about having a football stadium as the primary sports venue anchor for the project. Many representatives raised the density issue in terms of the economic return on investment from the usage of a football stadium. According to the current CC plan, s NFL stadium is included as being the anchor in the initial Phase I, while a MLB ballpark is only being considered down the road in a possible Phase III. It may be becoming more apparent that the CC project planners have their sports venue priorities in the wrong order. Hopefully, in the not too distant future we will get definitive answers to these questions.

  23. @llpec,

    The Raiders want to stay in Oakland/at Coli, the A’s don’t. It’s that simple re what venue should be built first (or at all). Again, Oakland pols/interests have no power to “pressure” Wolff to sell ream or build in Oakland. Reality: football stadium realistic, ballpark isn’t at Coli.

  24. Meant team above, not “ream.”

  25. Levi’s is being used as an anchor for the developments right across on the landfill. Why can’t a Raiders stadium in CC Phase 1?

    • @Larry E / Tony D – The difference is the planning process. Levi’s Stadium is a standalone project, and any future development is not directly associated with it other than Montana hotel. Coliseum City is being planned such that the ancillary pieces will help pay for the stadium, requiring a big master planning initiative. Oakland decided to completely redo planning for the entire area across the freeway and out to near the airport. The golf course and landfill area north of Levi’s Stadium is much smaller than the entirety of Coliseum City, and has already been “banked” as part of Santa Clara’s long-term planning for the northern part of the city.

  26. I can answer that question Llpec.

    Because the Raiders have been playing ” good cop” with Oakland pols in addition of having the city “by the balls” with the mount davis debt..Raiders get first “dibs” as anchor tenant. Also Raiders have options to movr to L.A or Santa Clara while Oakland still pays off Mount davis

    But u are right a ballpark, stadium then arena is the right phases Oakland planners should do for Coliseum city.

    To me personally i want to see the Raiders management put a good product on the field first before they bitch about new stadiums. I personally feel that Coliseum is great…for the Raiders only to control and make money off of.

    I apologize ML. I forgot the Warriors design arena was across the freeway…I don’t agree with it but it would be a great area to develop a freeway to separate the arena from the “ghetto”

  27. @Larry E.,
    Excellent point re Levi’s Stadium and development. Raiders stadium at CC can do same.

  28. I wish this news ment Wolff was thinking about CC, but it just looks like he needs more time, to get San Jose, or build somewhere Fremont, 580 (tri-city), who the hell knows. I am not sure who made the point, but it looks like Oakland has a choice to make, if the Raiders do want to build on the Coli footprint (still an if, we dont really know), Oakland can say yes, to a new football only park, that will keep the Raiders in town, for 30-40 years or more, or say yes to Wolff, in the old Coli on a 5-10 year lease, with no idea if he will ever build in Oakland. Oakland has never treated the A’s right, always doing things for the Raiders, and the Warriors for that matter, but if its come down to this, and this is the choice, I hate to say it but they need to go with the Raiders.

  29. @RM,

    Thanks for the info. I guess my take would be along the lines of Levi’s creating synergy for peripheral developments with ONLY 8 guaranteed home NFL games per year. The fact that it isn’t a ballpark with 81 home dates of 36k+ fans is pretty telling re planned SC developments around Levi’s. In short: a football stadium could act as a catalyst for development.

  30. @ Tony – more often than not, the football stadium is a standalone, and doesn’t generally generate a bunch of other development, unless the stadium itself is mega-iconic in itself, such as JerryWorld in Arlington, TX. Many of the new NFL stadiums built lately have had the excuse of generating development – Ford Field, Lucas Oil, MetLife, RayJ in Tampa, hell even the Georgia Dome in ATL and the SheepDome in STL, both of which are on life support now.

    Levi’s will be a boon to the 49ers, a pain in the ass to the local businesses whenever the Niners have games there not on Sundays, a quantum improvement over Candlestick in all ways, and it’ll be cool to look at whenever you go to the higher points at Great America. It may even generate a new hotel or two. But lasting development in the area? Nah. Anything that might be going in there was already in the works, due to its proximity to Bowers/101, Parkway/237 and the VTA Tasman line.

  31. I think Montreal is a more viable option than Portland, but I don’t think MLB has any interest in moving a team from the Bay area. Too much money there, but I’m sure MLB would love to have some viable alternatives to hold over teams/cities heads. Tampa on the other hand. I’m starting to think Montreal would draw better than Tampa. They have had a decent history of attendance, but things got real ugly there after the 94 season. Followed by watching Moises Alou, Larry Walker, and Pedro Martinez leave, left the fan base with baseball ennui.

    But prior to then they have drawn fairly well. Throw in a large corporate base and good sized TV-market, and MLB ready temporary facility. While Tampa, has never shown much support of the Rays, even with their great performance the last 6 years, small corporate base meaning less season tix, and I do question the disposable income available to the fan-base, and their population does have a transient nature. What would the Rays draw if they had to go through another rebuild and won 70 games 12-13k?

    Plus I wonder, if Sternberg would have to sell the team. What if he just decides to move his team. Considering he lives in NY. I don’t think he has any real ties to Tampa.

  32. @SS and David,

    Both good points re football stadiums and viable MLB markets. Re a new Raiders stadium, the city of Oakland really has no choice since they’re the only team that wants to stay and build. Can’t force a good looking girl to go out with you if she doesn’t want to.

    BTW, good (?) to see Wolff speaking so glowingly about “Buddy” over at ESPN (Selig’s final year). I guess it’s good to see their relationship is fine and dandy. Do you miss all those round, concrete bowls to watch baseball in! Uh, we A’s fans are still experiencing that ESPN…(thanks for nothing Buddy)

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