Grampy to baseball: Wonderful, thank you, now get lost
Yesterday's visit to Portland by the top brass of the Florida Marlins baseball team rekindled hopes among the city's baseball fanatics that some day a major league team will find its home in the Rose City. Team officials met with the governor and the mayor, and drove around looking at potential sites for a stadium. It's clear that Portland is on a short list of some sort with the team.
But although there were a lot of feel-good sentiments expressed, at the end of the day (literally) the mayor didn't just throw cold water on baseball's prospects here -- it was more like dropping an iceberg onto them. Here's what transpired, according to the O:
[D]uring a meeting with Mayor Tom Potter, the subject of public financing for a baseball stadium -- something Potter strongly opposes -- never came up. Potter reiterated after the meeting that "publicly financed baseball would not be coming to Portland on my watch."Today some of baseball's local backers responded. And although they're smiling through clenched teeth, they're obviously pretty steamed. In a press release (which I am reading second-hand from a trusted source), Drew Mihalic of the Oregon Sports Authority offered these thoughts:
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Asked whether most Portlanders couldn't care less about a baseball team, Potter said: "That's my very strong sense."
Potter did not dismiss the idea of economic development that a stadium project might bring, although he said he had no specifics to go by in this case.
I want to thank Mayor Potter for taking the time to meet, and I want to make clear that I have a great deal of personal and professional respect for him. In fact, as someone with children in Portland Public Schools, and as the leader of an organization that has twice saved PIL spring sports seasons, I share his position that education is an absolute priority for the City of Portland.It doesn't take too much translation to grasp that there's a rift here that's going to be hard to heal. Not encouraging for baseball fans. Not at all.
Yesterday served as a culmination of many years of hard work and dedication for a countless number of Oregonians who have spent considerable time, passion and energy on the quest to position Portland as a home for Major League Baseball. We were disappointed not to have the opportunity, prior to the Marlins visit, to present to the Mayor the reasons behind our passion for this quest. Hence, we were unable to provide him with a full explanation of how baseball in Portland can happen in a way that makes sense for our City.
While yesterday's visit was a total success in almost all aspects, the one unfortunate result is a headline distributed across the country that reads: "Mayor: Most Portlanders don't care about getting a team." While the Mayor spoke positively in general about the visit, when a reporter asked if he felt Portlanders couldn't care less about baseball, he stated that it is his "very strong sense." Again, we are disappointed not to have had the opportunity to present him with substantial evidence that convincingly demonstrates Portland's profound interest in Major League Baseball....
While the evidence clearly points to a significant level of support for baseball in Portland, we recognize that the Mayor is fully entitled to his opinion. However, if the people of Portland do not share that opinion, we hope they will communicate to the Mayor that they do in fact care about this remarkable opportunity -- in a polite and positive manner. We encourage people to do so at oregonstadiumcampaign.com.
We know that we must do a better job of communicating to the Mayor that the City can play an appropriate, yet critical role in the financing of a ballpark -- one that meets his stated concerns regarding the protection of Portland taxpayers. I truly, and strongly believe that if the Marlins situation develops as we envision, and the Mayor provides us with the opportunity to sit down and work through these issues in earnest, the end result can be an incredible accomplishment for him, for the City of Portland and for the entire state of Oregon. We sincerely hope that we are afforded that chance.