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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 15, 2004 10:36 AM. The previous post in this blog was "Guess the Dictator or Television Sit-Com Character". The next post in this blog is Welcome to Buck-a-Hit Day II. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Knucklers

I'm a big backer of bringing Major League Baseball to Portland. For what we spent on the PGE Park fiasco and the always-empty Convention Center expansion, we could have had the local share of a stadium financing package. And while Governor Ted (who knew? who knows?) is ready to o.k. an Indian casino out in Cascade Locks, he turned down an offer to have a tribe build the stadium for free if only he would have approved a casino in Portland itself. That 40-mile difference is costing us hundreds of millions.

Anyway, the major leagues have decided to move the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C., but ever since that announcement was made, there's been trouble. Today we hear that the District of Columbia is now suddenly requiring private owners to put up half the cost for the stadium -- a demand that could very well kill that deal. (The rumblings on this score have been audible for at least a month.) Which could conceivably bring Portland back into the running, except for the fact that the City Council still isn't quite "getting it."

I know many Portlanders think that a major league baseball stadium is a waste of money. But so is public financing of political campaigns, which the City Council is about to approve at a tab of $1.3 million a year. For the record, at 5% interest, $1.3 million a year for 30 years would raise roughly $20 million in immediate cash toward the local $150 million needed to build the ballpark.

Comments (20)

Once upon a time I was involved with the organization that brought Portland the PGE Park fiasco. What I learned about the workings of sports at the time led me to believe that it will be a very long time indeed until Portland will get a major league baseball team. (Much as it depresses me to say that).

The way MLB works they are not going to move a team to a city that cannot support it. They need evidence that the city can support baseball before they move a team there. That was the whole point of the Beavers, to prove to the baseball world that PDX could be a baseball town. Given the fiasco of a minor league team, I don't know how confident folks will be that the city could handle a major league team.

So even if we were all to chip in $5 and build a shiny new stadium, the team might not be there.

You want a major league team in Portland? Then you need to convince the corporate bigwigs and other deep pockets around town that it's a good idea, and they, as a group, need to convince MLB it's a good idea. Because once the stadium is built MLB wants to know that suites and season tickets will be sold, because you and me promising to take our families out to several games a year just won't cut it.

Plus, not sure how MLB feels about it, but Minor League baseball has some pretty strict regulations regarding casinos ability to advertise with and sponsor teams. Not sure if they'd thumbs up the casino stadium project or not.

Although it might take some press away from all the talk about steroids....

Vera and the rest that want to subsidize a private business like baseball are the same people who complain that we don't have enough money for our schools. Baseball is a big loser in all but the largest markets with the largest budgets. If it was a good investment, why wouldn't the owners of the teams build their own facility? And why do cities continue to succumb to the threats of owners nationwide who would move the team unless a new stadium is built? It is ridiculous. Baseball is entertainment not unlike a movie. You pay your money at the door, purchase some concessions, and enjoy a few hours of entertainment. Should we subsidize movie theatres too?

Stop wasting money on the things we don't need and don't generate income, and then complain that we are out of money for the things we do need. That includes lightrail, trams, esplanades, property tax breaks for the most expensive per square foot property in the state, minor league baseball stadiums, etc.

I hate to argue all the reasons why bringing MLB to Portland is a good idea. Just let me say, most questions can be answered at

www.oregonstadiumcampaign.com

That being said, I think MLB baseball is a unique product, different from movies or operas. The funding is coming from a revenue source that is not available unless the team shows up. And with unemployment at 7%, Portland needs to do something to attract big companies. Yes, MLB is a risk. But its a risk Portland should take.

As for the casino, I'm all in favor of a casino. But how can you let one tribe build a casino and not let every tribe. You can't. Meaning you'd have seven casinos in Portland.

Also, if casinos generate so much revenue. Then why doesn't the Oregon Lottery Commission build one. That way Portland can keep 100% of the proceeds. We don't have a sales tax, so we might as well get our money from the poor this way.

comparing a baseball stadium to a movie theatre is ridiculous. if done right, it can change the whole dymanic of a city (of course, everything the govt touches here is doomed). I grew up near Cleveland, OH and watched downtown (and cleveland in general) go from a dump to a modern, revitalized center that attacts all kinds of people, industry and other projects. it all started with their new baseball stadium, Jacobs Field. and this was a team that had sucked and had terrible attendance for four decades

Portland is too small for a baseball team. Period. Major League Baseball will fail here if tried before there are 5-million people in the metro area.

Regarding subsidizing entertainment: if we don't want to subsidize baseball, then we wouldn't want to subsidize the orchestra, opera, and ballet either. They all perform in public accomodations. Why can't they appear at a private venue like the Alladin or the Rose Garden? If you claim that the opera and ballet are "art" and serve a "serious public purpose", then you don't appreciate the art of a well-turned double play and the serious public purpose of big win. Your "art" is as valid as my "art".

Regarding Portland is too small: Portland is bigger than Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Milwaukee. We're probably bigger than Pittsburgh now, and may soon be bigger than Tampa-St.Pete. Portland's baseball barriers have nothing to do with size.

Portland is not too small for baseball. Period. It is the largest metro area without a team. Period. the ratings for the Mariners are higher in Portland than several other teams are for their own teams. Period.

To be pithy, size doesn't matter.

What really matters in numbers of dollars both from fans and sponsoring corporations, but mostly from sponsoring corporations. Portland just does not have the corporate money-base to support the needed advertising and luxury suite dollars required to run a major league baseball team.

I love baseball and would thoroughly enjoy season tickets in bleacher seats. But I just do not believe Portlanders (and down-state, east-of-the-mountains Oregonians) have the stomach to put up the requisite amont of money when we don't even have the stomach to pay for things like fully funding public schools and opening the built-but-empty county jail facility.

MLB long ago gave into the lure of casino money. In 2000 for example, the Sycuan tribe was title sponsor of the San Diego Padres. si.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/news/2000/02/07/padres_syucan_ap/ Visit Safeco and all you see are signs for the Emerald Queen casino. Same in Phoenix for one of the local ones down there. If they believed Portland were a viable place to move, they'd allow some sort of casino sponsorship. Should they move to Vegas, casino money will almost certainly be involved (Wynn's or the brothers Malloof).

As for revitalization, you need only look at the impact Safeco has had on Seattle or the BOB has had in Phoenix. Which is to say zero. There is no activity in those areas that wouldn't have happened independent of the ballparks. In places where the ballpark has been key to the "revitalization", such as Baltimore's Inner Harbor, go visit on non-game days. They're ghost towns. Our very own RQ is a perfect example. You can't build the attraction and expect money to follow beyond a couple of years. Whatever became of Scott Thomason's quest to bring an NFL team to town? Football is a much easier sell (10 games plus playoffs vs 81 plus playoffs) and a guaranteed moneymaker.

The opera, orchestra, and ballet only use those facilities for a handful of dates each year, allowing the municipality to rent them out to other acts/events. Washington, D.C. was struggling to get MLB to allow them a handful of dates for non-MLB use.

Outside of the players and top management baseball franchises don't pay high salaries and most jobs are seasonal. A manufacturing plant though less entertaining to watch would provide family wage jobs to many and actually lower that 7% unemployment rate, yet we don't use public money to build them.

I'm a huge baseball fan and would attend many games each year; I just don't think public money should be used to keep dollars in the wallets of billionaire owners.

I love it when all the "yeah, let's get MLB" crowd starts parroting that stadium campaign boot-lickers' arguments...talk about slanted!

Here's a suggestion:
Pick up a book (or as I did, three of them) and read about how MLB (and any other major league sport, for that matter) doesn't do all the wonderful pro-economy (i.e., more jobs, blah, blah, blah) things the advocates claim.

Here are the three I read (with several by authors who are also economists with NO STAKE IN THE MATTER ONE WAY OF THE OTHER):
1. Major League Losers by Mark Rosentraub
2. Field of Schemes by Cagan and deMause
3. Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, edited by Noll and Zimbalist

NONE of these books supports any of the blather the pro-team, pro-stadium crew is spewing.

In fact, here's a direct quote from the Noll and Zimbalist book (see page 496): "The studies in this volume uniformly conclude that metropolitan and central city economic development is not likely to be affected by a sports team or facility...[T]hese results are in sharp contrast to the claims of the dozens of promotional studies that have been performed by consulting firms under contract with the affected city or team."

But Vera and the rest of the pro-MLB clowns on Council never let logic and research in the way of splashy pipe dreams before, so why now?

steve - Keep in mind that Portland can't a decent crowd for the current baseball team. Smaller crowds than other league teams in much smaller cities. Portland is not interested in baseball.

Portland is too small to support a major team. Period.

Scott:

Once again, what the Beavers draw is irrelevent. they are a minor league team. Before Cleveland's new stadium, they were drawing less that 10K/per. also, like I said, the Mariners get better TV ratings in PDX than several other teams get for their OWN team. that is unheard of.
the support is there. I will agree that one should have zero confidence in anyone for portland or oregon govt in handling this situation. they will find a way to mess it up. fortunately, baseball isn't coming to PDX with this round, even with the collapse in DC. they will get a team soon, and hopefully someone competant is here to oversee it.
Portland is big enough and does have the support.

Hey, you know what it comes down to? I used to be a baseball fan when I lived in San Diego, because there was a team to root for and I could go to several games a year and follow the team on local TV. Sort of like with the Blazers right now. Since I moved to Portland I don't know Barry Bonds from a hypodermic needle. I miss that. So bring baseball to Portland for us, the fans. Who cares if it is an economic boon? It's a psychic boon. Just like the Blazers are. For all their faults, can anyone deny we're a richer place for their presence among us?

I love the game. I've never missed an opening day at Safeco Field. Unlike many MLB-in-Portland boosters, I actually go to Beavers game. But I've always been skeptical or opposed to the schemes to bring MLB to the Rose City.

Lets face it, MLB (the league, the club owners) is evil. It holds communities and fans hostage. The Oregon Stadium Campaign's lobbying and tactics during the 2003 legislative assembly wasn't evil, but it certainly was shameful. Nonetheless, if the only way Portland will ever see MLB is to build a stadium with precious public resources to subsidize a wealthy owner and the league, so be it. I'd vote against the stadium plan if it came to a public vote, but I admit I'd spend my hard-earned dollars in the ball park.

Here are two specific reasons I don't support the Oregon Stadium Campaign:

1) There's no position from the city or stadium campaign that jobs in the stadium will fall under the city's living wage ordinance. In fact, Rose Quarter and PGE Park are exempt. What's up with this? City funds aren't supposed to subsidize poverty wages.

2) The financing scheme calls for PGE Park to be sold for redevelopment. And without even consulting PSU, OSAA, the Timbers, etc. The whole Piggy Park thing has been a mess, but the Rose City got a great multi-use public facility for colleges, high schools, professional soccer and international soccer events. Why raze it and leave current users homeless for $13 million towards a $310 million baseball stadium? If anything, I always thought one of the best reasons to bring MLB to Portland would be allow Piggy to more football-soccer specific stadium.

MLB in Portland should never happen.
1. It wouldn't be good for the community, unless attracting a bunch of spoiled, steroid-popping athletes and their good-for-nothing entourage members is your idea of economic development.
2. A once-great community like Portland hardly needs another way for its citizens to sit passively while their city rots. Watching professional sports is almost entirely a vicarious thrill for the spectator. The mass insanity of professional spectators (who consider themselves failures if their team loses, and heros if their team wins) is bread and circus.
3. These reasons do support baseball in DC. The politics in DC are so depressing that baseball would be a well-deserved analgesic for the masses. There are also enough sociopaths in DC that a few more would not really be noticed.
Full disclosure, I have lived in DC and Portland (3+ years in each).

I lived in Raleigh Durham for 10 years and the minor league team consistently drew 10,000 fans to games, even during the week.

I've been to Beavers games and an audience of 1000 is routine.

I don't know what's up, but this just does not feel like a MLB town to me.

Disclaimer: i love MLB, having grown up in Chicago (cubs not sox) and Michigan (Tigers).

Scott (who favors MLB in PDX) - The Beavers' attendance is the symptom of the (imminent) failure. The only live team in town can't scrape up enough rabid fans to outshine even smaller cities. And Gordo's argument that "I'll support them after they are here"....just doesn't cut it.

PDX has a really, REALLY low percentage of baseball fans. I don't know why. I don't care. But a lot of other rainy cities with fewer citizens really rally around baseball. But we don't. That's just the way the cookie crumbles here (along with no pump gas, and no sales tax).

Portland has plenty of people deluded into thinking that this is a "Big City". It's not. Those folks need to get over it.

Being the only wide spot in the road for 300+ miles (excluding Seattle) doesn't make you a city a World Player. Portland can't compete at that level. Period.

All for baseball, all against having any public money at stake in the stadium. I would have thought we learned our lesson with PGE Park.

Probably the best way to decide this is if a privateer with some skin in the game (i.e. his money) decides to invest in it, great.

BTW, am not crazy about funding public arts fora. The Armory in the Pearl District looks to be a boondoggle for Gerding/Edlen to prop up their property values (conveniently located next door. If the opera, orchestra, and ballet pay FMX to rent the facilities, great.

I don't really care whether MLB ever comes to Portland. I couldn't possibly care less about the sport, and would have absolutely no interest in attending a game. All I really care about is not repeat NOT having tax money spent on a damn stadium. If baseball fans and/or players and/or owners want to pony up ALL the money themselves, I won't say a word. If the scheme to soak me for the cost of subsidizing someone else's habit looks like it might get launched, I'll have plenty to say to my political reps.


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