An open letter to Branch Rickey, III
Branch B. Rickey, III
Pacific Coast League
Dear Mr. Rickey:
I wonder if you, as president of the league in which the Portland Beavers baseball team plays, are aware of what's been going on with the team in recent weeks. The team's owner, Shortstop LLC, which also owns the Portland Timbers soccer team, has committed itself to (a) buying a new soccer franchise, in the Major League Soccer league; and (b) getting the City of Portland to convert PGE Park, the current home of the Beavers, into a facility that would specifically be unsuitable for baseball.
This means that the Beavers will need a new place to play, and so far the only two Portland sites that have been found that would be suitable for a new baseball stadium have turned out to be unworkable because of widespread resident opposition to changing them from their current uses. There is also major resistance against using city tax dollars that are earmarked for "urban renewal" to build a new stadium for the Beavers, anywhere in Portland. And this type of tax dollars is the only money that the city could possibly muster for such a project.
What this means is that the unless Shortstop changes its current tune, the Beavers will not be playing in Portland after next year (or maybe even after this year) -- and there's no other feasible site for baseball currently on the drawing boards. The municipalities around Portland are presently strapped for cash, just as Portland is, and many do not have the "urban renewal" money pot to play with. Moreover, Beavers attendance, currently less than 4,500 per game for the season, would likely not improve with a move away from the central city.
Many in Portland have suggested that the Beavers should continue to share PGE, which was renovated specifically for baseball not too long ago, with the pro soccer team. Soccer, it has been suggested, could use portable stands to create the "near the field" experience that its fans purportedly demand. But Shortstop has repeatedly rejected this option, asserting that the "major league" soccer organization will not allow it. Of course, Shortstop could build its own stadium using private funds, but it is unwilling even to discuss that as it plunges headlong into a major capital outlay for the new soccer franchise.
What is never mentioned in all the public debate here is how your league sees all this. Is the Pacific Coast League o.k. with the Beavers moving to the suburbs? How does it feel about the fact that once the remodeling of PGE is legally committed, the Beavers will be without any home at all? And has anybody considered that, unlike the situation with previous sales of the Portland baseball franchise, in this case if the Beavers leave PGE, there is a good chance that there will never be a suitable facility in Portland proper for minor league baseball -- ever again?
I look forward to hearing your comments on the situation.