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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Are the soccer league "requirements" a myth?

The basic premise of Merritt Paulson's proposal to kick the Portland Beavers out of PGE Park is that the "major" soccer league insists that only soccer be played there. A reader olf ours questions this assumption in an e-mail sent to us earlier today:

While everyone has so far been focusing on the financing of the proposed PGE Park/MLS deal, I did some research and discovered a huge lapse in fact-finding on the part of the city's task force.

The current proposal hinges entirely on the claim that MLS standards for soccer-specific venues would preclude PGE Park from being shared with the Beavers baseball team. Here's the problem: There are no such MLS standards.

After reading the task force report and finding no explanation or analysis of soccer-specific standards, I then read all of the other MLS-related documents posted on the city's website, and found nothing there either. Then I started Googling, in general, and found a definition of "soccer-specific" on Wikipedia. Basically, it's a marketing catch phrase coined by an MLS owner that simply describes MLS's wish list for its venues. The only written, objective standard is that the field has to be a certain size. I went on to Google documents on other soccer venues, etc., and found no other information to indicate that there are any MLS standards for soccer-specific venues.

That means there's no reason to relocate the Beavers, tear down Memorial Coliseum, and build a new baseball stadium, thereby saving $55 million.

I support MLS soccer coming to Portland, but not without proper fact-checking and public accountability. So, I hope this information will kick start a campaign to re-open negotiations with Merritt Paulson, and come up with a better deal for the people of Portland.

Can Fireman Randy wear the scarf to the meetings?

Comments (35)

I would love to see a member of the city council respond to this.

I don't think soccer wants the competition for the same playing field.

Any reason the Beavers can't use the Hillsboro stadium?

Any reason the Beavers can't use the Hillsboro stadium?

Any reason MLS soccer cant play in Hillsboro? Portland baseball has been at PGE park location since the 50s.

And where is PSU football going to be played? Are they moving too?

The story I got was that new permanent in-close stands have to be added for the huge crowds that will come. Keep in mind that when Pele and the Cosmos played at Civic Stadium in the Soccer Bowl against Seattle, temporary stands were brought in and that worked fine. (I know - I was there.)
You remember the NASL? It folded.
That can't work now though because the field has to be grass to attract certain kinds of international matches - or so I'm told. But I saw an MLS game on TV that wasn't on a grass field so I doubt that's an MLS thing either.

So the answer to the emailer is that we probably could do this for much less money by keeping PGE Park as a baseball stadium as well and still meet the MLS soccer requirements. The other stuff is just a goodies list that doesn't need to happen. It's a rich kid who wants the toboggan and the sled for Christmas even if the butler has to go buy one of them on Christmas Eve. It doesn't have to happen. Hell, you could even see how tickets sold before adding the temporary seats. Let's see them fill what's there first.

Another part of the pitch - no pun intended - is that we'd be moving way up from the minors to the majors, but is that even true? Or is this just minor league soccer, part 2?

Here's another question the NYTimes asked the MLS commish recently: "U.S.L. clubs have done remarkably well in the Concacaf Champions League; M.L.S. clubs have struggled. What do you say to those who point to that as evidence that the U.S.L. and M.L.S. are of similar quality?"

I'll skip his predictable answer about it only being one tournament but it's time to add up what we've gained here: We've traded two minor league teams in baseball and soccer for two minor league teams in baseball and soccer. We've traded a minor league stadium for both baseball and soccer for two minor league stadiums that will just have baseball or soccer and thus be dark much more during the year.
We'll hurt the businesses around PGE Park during baseball season but we'll create vast businesses around the minor league stadium - and good luck with that.
We also trade Memorial Coliseum for the new minor league baseball stadium.

Other than that it's a wash, except for the big boost in international respect we'll get starting in 2011. For what? I'm not sure. The aerial tram was supposed to be the Eiffel Tower so maybe we'll earn respect as the Minor League Baseball/Soccer Capitol of the World.

Of course, there will be a huge bill that you know will eventually come due when the happy talk recedes and the sure things turn into sand.

We haven't finalized the contracts and yet we've announced a deal. All the leverage is with Merritt Paulson to make the politicians crumble on the details. Our politicians have been hosed before, and I think they just got played again. To quote from Marx - Richard Marx - "It don't mean nothing, 'til you sign it on the dotted line."
But here's Portland's dirty little secret: The politicians don't mind if they get played. This has nothing to do with actual results. NONE of the projects are really about the actual results. It's about the thrill of the deal and the lure of the press conference.

Beers have been drunk and praise has been given, but the terms of our brilliant MLS plan still drift over the city like a haze awaiting materialization.

But just remember 2 things, above all else, Portland voters: This is NOT like the tram deal and we've learned from our mistakes at PGE Park. Everybody got it?

Another part of the pitch - no pun intended - is that we'd be moving way up from the minors to the majors, but is that even true? Or is this just minor league soccer, part 2?

Thats one thing I have wondered...are the current Timbers players just getting a promotion to the MLS? Are they all good enough? Or are fans going to be disappointed a lot?

The MLS doesn't require natural grass as far as I can tell ... Qwest Field has the same fake grass that is used in all outdoor college stadiums in Washington and Oregon (and at PGE Park).

You guys just don't understand. If they don't build a new stadium the chosen developers who fund Sam and Randy and Dan's campaigns won't get any money out of the deal.

I agree with Mr. Collins: the only reason our Great Leaders are interested in subsidizing pro sports is because they get to build something. That results in political support from the trade unions, the builders/architects, and the "cornerstone pride" (yeah, I built that).

Besides if they ever let a URD expire, that money would go into the General Fund and the competing interests (MultCo, PPB, civil servants) would just want to spend it on COLAs and street repair. BORING!

They don't trot out the Silver Shovels for street repair.

The idea of a soccer specific stadium is that the field is designed first and foremost to have soccer played there. This inherently rules out a baseball field, but not a football field. While MLS would like to not have its games in football stadiums for several reasons, including that the football stadia are too large to fill for soccer at this time (and really only the biggest clubs in the world--ManU, Inter, AC Milan, Barca, Real Madrid, etc.--can fill those size of stadia consistently), baseball fields prevent permanent seating of fans in two areas surrounding a field making the atmosphere more distant and less intimate, and football specific fields are often too narrow for international/high level soccer.

As for the artificial turf, MLS does not prohibit it, but most soccer players prefer not to play on it and I don't believe it is permitted for the highest level tournaments. However, in some areas the environment calls for it and if it is to be used by more teams than the Timbers it would be difficult to maintain. Playing a match on a high quality pitch (like Ronaldo field at Nike) is imminently better than artificial turf.

And to address your point, MLS wants all teams to get into soccer specific stadia and has tried to make that a requirement of all expansion clubs, but understands there are some exceptions that should be made to allow investors that have access to NFL fields (see e.g. Paul Allen, The Hunt Family, and Bob Kraft).

Teams that will have SSS or do have SSS currently:

NY, LA Galaxy, Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Colorado, Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Columbus, KC Wizards, DC (proposed), Houston (proposed), Portland (proposed), Vancouver (proposed), San Jose (proposed).

Only Seattle and New England have no plans for an SSS stadium and they have NFL owners.

"That means there's no reason to relocate the Beavers, tear down Memorial Coliseum, and build a new baseball stadium, thereby saving $55 million."

There is too a reason. A task force has just given a green light to construction of a 600-room Headquarters Hotel next to the Convention Center. This most certainly means that the rest of the dollars in the OCC URA (estimated to be $35 million) are now or will soon be reserved for this project.

Sam and Randy are rehabbing the Rose Quarter, primarily with taxpayer dollars of course. It's all one package: tear down the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, build a baseball stadium and a grand hotel, extend the streetcar.

We're in the midst of a terrible recession, you say? Not in Portland apparently.

The Edifice Complex is alive and well. Since the time of Ozymandias, the ego of the ruler has always required huge stone monuments to his greatness. The objections of the nattering nabobs of negativism only confirm the ruler's wisdom in choosing the forms of the monuments to himself.

The natural versus synthetic field is confusing. I previously made the mistake of saying that international play required grass fields but this isn't correct. FIFA and CONCACAF both allow all level of play on synthetic fields so long as the synthetic fields meets certain ISO qualifications. However, the reality is the host city agrees to use grass fields in international play as a condition to host the event. For example, the New York Red Bulls play on synthetic grass at Giant Stadium but I believe natural grass was placed over the turf when US and Argentina played a friendly last June.

A Hopeful,

How would you feel about the Portland Trailblazers leaving Portland, OR to another city?

Should Paul Allen and his holding corporation give free reigns to MLS on the Rose Quarter? If so, why when MLS will NEVER EVER draw the crowds and ticket sales that the Portland Trailblazers do?

YOMoonbat -

I don't understand your questions. I'm not advocating for the Trailblazers to leave Portland, or for MLS to go to the Rose Quarter. I'm advocating for MLS to go away, period.

A. Hopeful,

You know as well as I do that new stadium will not be for baseball.

Sam Tram and Randy "take me to dinner" Leonard envision another Pearl District near the Rose Quarter where condominiums for middle and upper class transplants can live, shop, go to every MLS game, and use the MAX to bless Downtown with their "worldly" dollars.

If that vision incorporates the Portland Trailblazers...Well that is up to how much Sam and Randy cater to Paul Allen.

Believe me, that will be one donnybrook where Paul Allen is bringing in spreadsheets on Trailblazers attendance from the past 5 to 10 years and comparing it with the flimsy "projections" that Hank Paulson III has for MLS.

Sam and Randy are rehabbing the Rose Quarter

Wait. Wait.

Sam was Vera's right-hand guy when the boondoggle was started in 1993, and we all know how the Rose Quarter no-mans-land turned out. What makes things any different this time around?

Just cut the crap, Sam, and issue direct checks from city accounts to your developer campaign buddies. Just be up front about it -- it's a hell of a lot more honest than going through this whole pageant of planning and promises yet again.

A. Hopeful,

Dang it then. I thought you were in for fun.

Anyways, ALL of my questions are directed to you Europhile, self loathing soccer fans.

Bring it, don't sing it.

How would you feel about the Portland Trailblazers leaving Portland, OR to another city?

I'd ask Allen & Company if they needed help packing.


Your attitude is befitting of a Generation Xer who had it good back in their 20s when they used their trust fund to go to school, travel the world, and come to be a Europhile.

Too bad that trust fund ran out, your Master's or PhD in some useless liberal arts degree did not translate into a professor gig, and now you are working in a coffee shop with a "screw the taxpayer attitude! I want my bohemian lifestyle given to me!" attitude.

That may not be you, but it is an accurate description of a lot of Generation Xers in Portland, OR who are too stupid to realize that the job market is too saturated with their ilk for them to have the lifestyle they want in Portland, OR.

Uh.... Y.O. Moonbat... you have got your Gen. X and Gen. Y confoosed....

Aren't GenXers like...35 or 40 now?


No, I do not have them confused. You refer to my generation (Millennials) in the same vein as Generation X.

I take offense to that because Millennials like myself are more practical, do not expect to receive Social Security or Medicare, and expect to spend the bulk of our adult lives cleaning up the societal messes created from earlier generations (the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation in particular).

You are right that Millennials do work low-wage service sector jobs. The difference is that there are not that many of us (in comparison to Generation X) do not have those lavish trust funds that allow one to become fiscally liberal and spend our 20s traveling. What did you expect?

This is not the late 1960 and early 1970s where any high school graduate could get a living wage, manufacturing job and raise a family of three off of one salary.

The Baby Boomers exported those "living wage, manufacturing jobs" to China, India, and other would be "third world shitholes" under the guise of "Progress" and "Globalization."

Free Trade = US importing goods with moderate tariffs on them, while US exports are slapped with higher tariffs.

Ain't nothing free or fair for the US in that deal.

The MLS is a bush league at best. In fact, US Soccer is a joke, we can't even beat Ghana when it counts.

Well, there are a number of things I suppose you can criticize us boomers for. But consider this:

We started the environmental movement.

We made equal rights possible.

We made gay rights possible.

We brought forth the feminist movement.

We made abortion safe and legal.

We were the first to question "my country right or wrong".

We started the bicycle movement.

We started the alternative transportation movement.

We were the first to question the American dream of a house in the suburbs, a wife in a pleated skirt in the kitchen, and a cold martini when we got home from the office.

Sure, boomers made mistakes... what generation doesn't? But our generation fundamentally changed the way we regard our environment, our government and our bodies. You inherited many freedoms thanks to us boomers.

Generation X in my opinion is like a constant replay of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. They are highly creative with awesome ideas, but being the middle child sandwiched by the Baby Boom and Millennials has turned cynical because the context has made their policy ideas impossible to implement.

Generation X has every right to be pissed. They are nearing political power as a generation and they have been dealt a shady hand of cards to work with. Unlike the Baby Boomers whose parents worked hard, saved, and gave everything to them.

Generation X will start the reforms and cleaning up, which they will hand off to the Millennials.

I apologize for carrying on with this unrelated bunk. Edit or delete my comments as you deem necessary.

Millenials are the laziest group of individuals out there.... Always asking for a handout.

I recognize that judgmental tone. You had it when some of questioned the ice story in the Buffalo air crash. We also questioned how quickly the story was spread in the media. You bought the ice story and cited your experience as a pilot to imply we were just conspiracy nuts who didn't know what we were talking about.
That may still be true, but I thought ABC News had an interesting headline tonight:

"Ice Ruled Out as Culprit In Feb. Plane Crash"

I think we'd all be better served if posters stuck to the topic of the thread and took the unrelated generational nattering private.

What no one mentions is that if Memorial Coliseum is torn down, where goeth the Winterhawks? I guess soccer trumps ice hockey. Too bad - even with lower attendance per game, I would guess the Winterhawks season attendance is higher.


You are a conspiracy kook, but that does not mean I do not enjoy your takes on subjects. Also don't believe everything the media tells you.....


Economists Say DC Soccer Stadium Funding 'Cannot be Justified'

The proposal to spend $150 million or more in taxpayer funds to subsidize a new soccer stadium “will not generate notable economic or fiscal benefits for the city” according to 26 economists from across the nation who signed a joint statement being released today.

The economists’ statement is available at http://dcfpi.org/?p=164

“Most studies find that new sports stadiums do not increase employment or incomes and sometimes have a modest negative effect on local economies,” the economists wrote.

Dr. Brad Humphreys, an economist at the University of Alberta who has studied the economic impacts of numerous sports stadiums, explained that “a soccer stadium that is used just 20 to 30 times per year cannot realistically be expected to be a driver of economic development.” Humphreys also noted that sports stadiums don’t tend to increase the amount people spend regionally on entertainment, and will not lead to higher employment or income. His research even finds that stadiums can be a drain on local economies, in part because team players often take their salaries and spend them elsewhere.

"This is not the late 1960 and early 1970s where any high school graduate could get a living wage, manufacturing job and raise a family of three off of one salary."

There was also a war with no end in sight in Vietnam and a thing called the DRAFT sonny.

Generation X in my opinion is like a constant replay of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.

not to take these generational terms too seriously, but Generation X isn't a well-defined term.

Aren't GenXers like...35 or 40 now?

and older, if you buy the popular definitions.

really, all of these terms are just ways to idolize youth, not make meaningful distinctions between generations or experiences.

in other words, there is no such thing as "Generation X".

people today seem to have no idea just how temporary the post-WW II economic bubble will turn out to be. it's nearly cost us everything.

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