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:
#Marlins prez Samson in his “Survivor” bio page: personal claim to fame is getting $350M in public dollars for ballpark in a recession
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) January 23, 2014
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.