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Friday, March 6, 2009

This week's put-on

Fireman Randy and Little Lord Paulson are suddenly acting as though the deal to pump public money into two new minor league sports stadiums in Portland is about to break down.

I am not believing that story for a second.

It is standard operating procedure at City Hall to talk tough for a while, build the drama, but then give everything away when it counts. The bigger the giveaway, the bigger the show. The Scone (who's priming for a comeback, it appears) used to make this face and tell you how pained he was to do it, and then sell out the taxpayers anyway. I remember Vera shrieking at the aerial tram people, "You get just 15 million dollars -- and it had better be a picture postcard." What a charade that turned out to be.

No, the only safe assumption is that the Paulson stadiums deal is still very much on track, regardless of how utterly insane it is. The little last-minute lovers' spat that the papers are faithfully prattling about tonight is all for show.

Meanwhile, another second-tier sport in town just declared bankruptcy. But hey -- ignore that. Ignore all common sense. The stadiums deal is for the "jobs." And in the end, we'll pack the place with capacity crowds who will pay upwards of $30 apiece for cheap seats to soccer that the rest of the world yawns at.

A stone cold linchpin is what it is.

Comments (44)

There's some actual dissent over at Blue Oregon to a so-called "progressive" case for Young Master Paulson's stadiums.

It's fascinating how this stadium proposal has made wannabe hooligans political bedfellows with a plutocrat. Central casting couldn't have come up with a more compelling villain in this story than Young Master Paulson.

I hold out some hope that sanity will prevail if people put pressure on City Council to stop this madness.

I don't know, man. Maybe Leonard is finally realizing that his political ship could go down if he guns for this deal and it ends up costing the Portland taxpayers millions of dollars, which it probably will without some ironclad guarantee of cost overrun coverage by the deep pocketed Paulsons.

(And Leonard is clearly way out in front of the City Council on this, so it's going to be his to own, good or bad.)

The liar's budget on this thing is "$85 million", but if it ballooned up ala the aerial tram [rim shot], it could easily go to $150 million.

Personally, I think the whole thing is a waste of time on a sports league that is anything but "major league".

BTW, anyone know what's going on in the other cities that are putting up bids for one of the expansion teams? Is it as much of a cluster**** anywhere else as it is here in Portland?

I was hopeful when I saw the news that the wheels were falling off this deal, and also kind of surprised at the suddenness. That this is a ruse sounds too plausible.

I haven't checked in for a while, but I wrote a piece for bleacherreport.com on this same topic this morning. It might be worth a tumble for some of your readers.

From the
I've read, Vancouver seems to lead the pack. It lacks a soccer-specific stadium, but its existing CFL football stadium is a decent interim facility. St. Louis seems to lack adequate financial backers to cough up the $40 million expansion fee, though a IL suburb has agreed to use tax increment financing for a soccer stadium. Ottowa seems to have support of the folks behind the NFL team for the expansion fee, and like Portland, they're trying to get public funds to build a stadium, though there does not seem to be wide support.

It is reminiscent of the tram thing where Randy called the one guy out for lying to the city. Then there were the assurances that Saltzman wouldn't flip and we got the "And if I know him" line. Then when the lights came back up and the smoke cleared, miracle of miracles, we had us a tram anyway.
Next we went right into the speeches about how these sort of budgetary guesstimates will never, I repeat, never happen again.
Funny how never always gets here sooner than you think.

That sounds ominous.

Adams and Leonard don't know the meaning of the word "no." Saltzman would be the one vote they need to run this deal through.

After thinking about my comment above, I realized the plan WILL cost the taxpayers of Portland millions of dollars, in the form of urban renewal funds, even in the best case scenario.

That alone is worth nixing the deal.

I agree with others who have said the Paulsons should raise the money privately if it's all such a good idea. The whole purpose of coming to us is to publicize as much of the costs as possible while privatizing any profits.

I agree Portland could use another major league sport, tired of reading about the Jailblazzers 365 days a year. Isn't CoP considering revamping the Rose Garden area, Now here's a thought go for a NHL team. Not a big waste of money, I believe the Garden or the other old building can hold 19 thousand for hockey, which by the way is about average for attendance. 'course Paulson wouldn't make millions at the expense of the taxpayers.

Reduce, reuse, recycle the Ol' Veterans Memorial Colliseum. If we can't get an NHL franchise, then let's convert it to emergency/transitional housing and get all the transients off of Tri-Met and our parks, freeway onramps, and streets.

Maybe daddy would even be interested in renaming rights, "Hank Paulson Memorial Housing Center"?

In the meanwhile, the taxpayers really need to buy off a busboy at Ringside and El Gaucho to see who Randy is dining with next week.

Paulson is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay smarter than Randy or Sam combined. It's a ruse to manipulate CoP.


I have no idea if this blogger knows what he is talking about, but he claims Vancouver BC is first in line for the franchise.


Here's the deal breaker that the public will pick up on and take hold of that isn't being talked about much - the way TIF works to skim a portion of what would normally be school funding and County money and puts it into Urban Renewal instead.

I had to explain this the other day a Timbers fan who was pro-MLS, but also happens to work on school funding issues. His eyes got bigger and bigger as I was drawing the TIF diagram on our paper napkin.

I really think the deal breaker is going to be when the County and Portland Public Schools looks at the money being siphoned off. Me thinks they will fight this with every ounce they have. As they should.

It is not the time to be using public money to invest in sports stadiums, especially for a league that has shown in most cities they (and the cities that invested in them) are losing money.

WTF is wrong with the City for even considering this deal when our schools and bridges are crumbling?

Publically financed stadiums and sports are indulgent, not "good investments". This has been proven over and over again in just about every city. I dare you to find an economist that supports this deal.

My favorite MLS "Who are they kidding?" detail is the name of one team: Real Salt Lake.
To a true soccer fan, that is actually an insult. Go read the long, proud history of Real Madrid - a history from the early 1900s up until the present day.
To try and usurp some soccer cred by slapping "Real" - which I believe means "Royal" after some King renamed the Madrid club back 1920 - onto a team from Salt Lake City is just ridiculous.
It's one of those attempts to sound more legitimate that works in reverse to expose the true farcical nature of this whole enterprise. Real Salt Lake. Give me a break.

"BTW, anyone know what's going on in the other cities that are putting up bids for one of the expansion teams? Is it as much of a cluster**** anywhere else as it is here in Portland?"

From what I've read, Montreal was dropped (or dropped out) when it sought to get the expansion fee lowered to $35 million. Interestingly, the expansion fee has gone up by about $10 million each time the MLS has added teams. I guess that's how Ponzi schemes work.

Miami just dropped out last week because the money people (who I believe were from Europe) decided that current economic conditions made the deal unwise.

Thanks, ExCity for the patient explanation of TIF and sensible advocacy.

It looks like it's down to Portland or Ottawa for the second franchise. Vancouver BC appears to have one franchise in the bag.


And from Friday's Globe and Mail:


The Ottawa negotiations sound complicated because one group wants to revive pro football and have it share a stadium with the proposed soccer team.


Although St. Louis may still be officially in the running, and has already secured funding for a soccer stadium, MLS Commissioner Don Garber says St. Louis needs a deep-pocket investor, which could be harder to get than stadium funding.


Every time I see something about "Little Lord Paulson" I am reminded of Geo W in his younger days. Does anyone want to bank on "Merritt for president in 2020"?
btw...that really gives me the creeps!

Well, the Professor is holding my longer comment for some reason but it looks like Vancouver BC has one franchise in the bag and the other looks to be a contest between Portland and Ottawa.

Has anybody said exactly what the MLS stadium standards are that PGE Park doesn't meet? I'm confused...

San Jose Earthquakes play at Santa Clara University's stadium which seats 11,000 in the Bay Area where the population is about 5 million.

FC Dallas play at Pizza Hut Park, a multi sport facility that seats 20,000 for the Dallas/Ft Worth area, pop. 4 million.

Houston Dynamo play at University of Houston's Robertson Stadium (built 1942), a multi sport facility that seats 32,000 for a city of over 4 million.

PGE Park - Multi sport facility, shared with Porland State Univ, renovated in 2001, seats 19,500 for a city of approximately 1.5 million. Already supports US League Portland Timbers soccer franchise, average attendance = 8,567 in 2008.

It doesn't make sense that MLS wouldn't accept Portland's business at PGE Park, even if it doesn't perfectly conform to specification.

None, your post assumes that voters would hold Portland's city commissioners accountable if the soccer stadium project experiences significant cost overruns. That is a bad assumption to make.

Look what happened with the tram. After it ended up costing more than three times the original estimates, Erik Sten got re-elected (if my memory serves me right), Sam Adams went on to become mayor, and Vera Katz got part of East Side Esplanade named after her. CoP voters actually reward their politicians for screwing up big-time! So what incentive do our politicos have to say no to stupid projects like the soccer stadium. Answer: none.

Jack, I think you're right that this hussy is a ruse.

The tram went from $9M to $15M, then $35M, then to $45M with PDOT having no accounting means to determine if it might not reach $60M. PDOT (as now) was Sam's bureau. He feigned "surprise-we must do something about this-I'm in charge". He "relocated" two city bureaucrats, called for studies, then said "We have to consider stopping the construction of the tram". He organized a large town-hall meeting, wanted the public's input, then commenced telling anyone arguing for the end of the tram that their thoughts were not well thought out and inclusive with "facts" like he had. Leonard went along, but stated his usually "I have questions about this aspect" jargon.

I also have questions about the favored Rose Garden location for the ball park. It hasn't been discussed too much where the exact location is in that small area, except the possibility of tearing down the Memorial Coliseum. Just two years ago the Council consensus was to try to rehab, reuse the award winning designed building (a fine example of mid-century architecture, and on the historical registry)as a sport center. Apparently short memories by Adams, Leonard and Saltzman since they were on the Council then.

It is routine to demand a performance bond from anyone doing development that involves curb and sidewalk improvements.

It would make for an un-extraordinary template from which to demand the same from any private developer/private sponsor here. But, because of the size of the project, I would investigate the financial soundness of the entity that would supply the bond.

The pattern of behavior, as clearly demonstrated by the tram cost explosion, is to invert the obligation from the private to the public; facilitated precisely because no performance bond was demanded at the outset. The absence of a demand for a performance bond should be construed as a violation of the duty of any public official that is involved, before the far-more-than-probable cost explosions manifest themselves.

What is the price to obtain a performance bond? What would you accept as payment now to assure completion?

Hey if BlueOregon supports this won't that be enough for Randy and company?


Just a minor correction in a comment above. I don't believe Leonard ended up voting for the tram. He phoned the vote in from a fishing trip and called the tram process an outrageous shell game. Of course, he was newer to the job then and didn't realize that was the ultimate city council compliment.

Potter and Sam were for the tram, and Saltzman changed his vote after giving the classic excuse: We've spent too much money to turn back now.
Sam immediately praised Saltzman for his display of real leadership, and the Oregonian referred to him as the man of steel for flipping his vote - and they were serious.
Then everyone got misty about figuring out how this happened so it wouldn't happen again.

Bill, Randy did vote for the tram in all the votes affecting the tram except for the spring 06 vote on the Operations Agreement ($1.7M per year).

Yes, he several times made exuberant media rants about the cost overruns, staff, etc., but he also said, "personally I want the tram built". I always liked the one where he says something like "I'll take my truck and pull the damn thing down". You might have better memory of that one.

The location for the proposed ballpark is on the west side of Interstate opposite the Coliseum (which is on the east side). Don't ask me how they are going to do it.

Re. the MLS deal, if its future is in doubt, why did a citizens advisory board just come out in support of the proposal? Never mind that these "citizens" must live on Mars.

I'd like to know who is on that board and what's in the deal for them.

I believe it could be falling apart. The task force only recommended half of what Paulson wanted, leaving a $40 million gap. That's a heck of gap to fill, and it wouldn't shock me if it scuttled the deal.

Anyway, I think the shenanagins it would take to use urban renewal money on PGE Park would kill the deal anyway, further down the line. The debate over Urban Renewal abuse is about to blow up in this state, and I'm all for it. The County can't sit to the side and lose $20 million a year to UR anymore.

Also, it may be a bit generous to describe horse racing as a "second-tier sport."

The distance between Interstate and the river directly west of the Coliseum is less than the width of the Coliseum itself. A baseball park with it's perimeter pedestrian, vehicle needs is about twice an arena's. Immediately to the south, the present grain elevators, the area widens out some. But the space only becomes the size of the Rose Garden, still not baseball park size. Also, these spaces are diminished because of our sacred Greenway setback, space requirements along the Willamette.

For all of this area the grade problems are horrific, a drop in elevation of over fifty feet in three hundred feet. I guess baseball on a sloping field would bring more interest. Or Portland could be a leader again and put all the parking and other associated utility spaces under the play field structure to accommodate the slope. Then with the green grass and green landscaped-outside walls of the bleachers it could be called Green and Sustainable. What's another $300 Million to be Green?

After completion we would have five major, regional facilities all in one place; Rose Garden, Memorial Coliseum, Ball Park, Convention Center, and the Convention Center Hotel, all served by a four lane freeway. Talk about congestion, even with only one venue being used. Well, I'm sure the trolley to the south could handle 40,000 to 50,000 people at one time.

The most ludicrous aspect of this discussion is the $85 million liar's budget.

How can they put together a wild assed guess ("WAG") if they don't even have a site plan? They are spending millions on poodle poop park, but they want us to believe they could build a AAA baseball stadium in either of two locations for $40 million? It could cost that much to tear down the existing structures in the Rose Garden and recycle/dump the old materials. And any WAG on the Lents site would also require the construction of replacement parks infrastructure for the displaced community park. I doubt that cost is even included in the WAG.

It's similarly premature to even discuss "cost overruns"...How can you have an overrun if you don't even have a site plan, site demolition/prep estimates, and a legitimate bill of materials, estimated labor, and design costs?

This "proposal" (if you can even consider it a legitimate proposal) suffers from the same organizational defect as the Tram: the eventual operator/beneficiary is wholly separate from the construction manager/owner, and they are very likely to create an 'independent' commission to actually design and implement the construction on two separate sites (PGE Park and the AAA baseball facility). This is at the heart of the "design gone wild" OHSU Tram fiasco: you don't approve a budget until the design has been completed, and the builder/owner is not going to relinquish control over change orders unless they know the operator (Shortstop LLC) is willing to pick up the increased costs. Shortstop LLC, for their part, would be foolish to agree to "all cost overruns" when they know the WAG/Liar's budget is unreliable, and they won't be able to exercise cost control authority (as would normally be done by the builder's agent) if the City is responsible for the design and construction.

The proposed structure of the public/private partnership is flawed beyond repair, as was the case with the OHSU Tram. When you start out with basic organizational flaws, the spiraling budget and latter stage cost containment short sightedness (i.e. no protection from inclement weather while in the Tram stations) is the likely outcome.

This has nothing to do with economics or sports. Fireman Randy is hanging on to his fire pole wondering which decision will make him the next Governor ...

Now I know what my Dad meant when he said..."not a lick of sense!"

Mr. Tee:

You're correct: the cost of the parkland under the proposed Lents stadium isn't included anywhere.

Two members of the Task Force fought to require replacement parks be part of the estimate, but (shockingly) were vehemently opposed by the person purporting to represent Lents. She thought that fighting for adequate parks for poor neighborhoods was a way for elitists to take this great "opportunity" away from Lents. Oddly enough, no one laughed when she said it.

Then the two TF members who fought over the issue caved.

Btw, NW Portlander, here's the list of members of the Fuzzy Math Task Force:

Billy Barquin, Attorney, Kootenai Tribe
John Bradley, Chair, Land Use Committee, Northwest District Association
Elisa Dozono, Attorney, Miller Nash
Lindsay Desrochers, Vice President, Portland State University
Mike Houck, Executive Director, Urban Greenspaces Institute
Drew Mahalic, President, Oregon Sport Authority
Brad Malsin, Beam Development
Steve Maser, Professor, Atkinson School, Willamette University
Chris McGuire, Director of US Sports Marketing for adidas America
John Mohlis, Commissioner, Portland Development Commission; President, Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council
Conrad Myers, Myers & Company
Cora Potter, Chair, Lents Urban Renewal Advisory Committee
Jerry Powell, Chair, Planning Committee, Goose Hollow Neighborhood Association
Tony Stacy, Vietnam Veterans’ Association, AMVETS
Keith Thomajan, Chair, Parks Board, City of Portland, President and CEO, Campfire USA
Jackie Thomas, Marketing Director, Global Brands, Nike Inc.
Mark Williams, Former Director, Metropolitan Exposition and Recreation Committee
TBA, Lloyd District Community Association

If those fields aren't replaced inch for inch within 1/2 mile of their current location, I think we should have a sit-in to block the construction. This whole deal is an example of the corruption that we have become so inured to that it is taken for granted. The fact that any elected officials are spending more than 20 minutes on this blatant give-away of public assets is appalling.

Put it to a vote. Put it on the ballot, exactly the way you want to do it, and let the people decide.

"I really think the deal breaker is going to be when the County and Portland Public Schools looks at the money being siphoned off. Me thinks they will fight this with every ounce they have."

Oh, that is very funny! How long has the urban renewal farce been going now?

No, the county and schools have shown that all it takes to buy them off is a new county building and the flaccid David Douglas scheme.

The police and firemen aren't as spineless. Maybe they'll save us all when they realize what a threat urban renewal poses to their precious pensions. Then again, Portlanders probably care less about those pensions than MLS.

Paulson is on Channel 8 saying the stadiums deal he's proposing will require NO dollars from the public under any scenario. Where is the consequence for this kind of blatant lying? Why aren't people spitting on this guy in the street?

Why don't we just take him up on his offer and say that, since there will be NO dollars from the public under any scenario, that we'd just as soon step aside and let the soccer people pay for whatever renovations or new stadiums they think are needed? After all, if the Man himself says that he doesn't need public money, then he should have no objection to the public not participating in any of this.

Two members of the Task Force fought to require replacement parks be part of the estimate, but (shockingly) were vehemently opposed by the person purporting to represent Lents.

You have clearly never been to Lents, Lents Park or the proposed site of the stadium out there. There are other conclusions I might draw, but I'll leave it at that.

The woman "purporting to represent Lents" lives in Lents and spends dozens of hours each month working as a volunteer on an array of committees that are trying -- all by themselves -- to make that neighborhood just one tiny percent better.

Your "adequate park" is in fact an enormously prized civic treasure. Yet in a comprehensive (1,001 responses) survey done by the Lents Neighborhood Association, two-thirds of those responding said they favored having the Beavers play in Lents Park.

Why? Lents Park already includes a seldom-used amateur baseball stadium and accompanying grandstand that is in deplorable condition. For some reason, the residents of Lents have concluded that it makes sense to replace a rickety, antiquated, underutilzed baseball stadium with a better one that would bring new people to the neighborhood, new businesses and new jobs.

But what the hell do they know? They only live there.

I sense growing divisiveness and anger on this issue so maybe we should settle it with a Rose City Derby. (pronounced Darby.) Check out how crazy this early match must have been:

Another widely reported, and somewhat more plausible theory (although not accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary) is that the phrase "derby" came about from the city of Derby itself. The traditional Shrovetide football match was also common place in the city. It was renowned as a chaotic and exuberant game which involved the whole town and often resulted in fatalities. The goals were at Nuns Mill in the north and the Gallows Balk in the south of the town, and much of the action took place in the Derwent river or Markeaton brook. Nominally the players came from All Saints' and St Peter's parishes, but in practice the game was a free for all with as many as 1,000 players. A Frenchman who observed the match in 1829 wrote in horror, 'if Englishmen call this play, it would be impossible to say what they call fighting'.

What do you say, Portland? Two sides, a few thousand players, one goal post on the East Side, one downtown. You have to admit: The Rose Festival could use some new blood.

Sportspork is destroying this country.

Some of you are thinking this, but are too PC to mention it:

On the day that there is an MLS game, ICE will know just where to find the largest concentration of illegal aliens.

Round 'em up cowboy! Send them to the Central Precinct for processing and prosecute the deportation cases baby!

Yeah! I found a positive for a financial waste!

The New York Times interviewed Merritt Paulson last Fall about his MLS proposal to the city. When asked why he was asking for city funding instead of using family money, he said:

“That idea is based on the assumption that I’m dealing with huge pools of family trust money. Everything I’ve worked from is a legal loan. We’re making a considerable private investment, and we’re saying there needs to be infrastructure."

So, if Merritt Paulson is borrowing the money to buy the franchise, who is the lender, what are the terms of the loan and how do the loan terms affect promises he is making and guarantees he is offering?

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