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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Paulson takes a hit from the south

A wise old columnist on a San Diego paper sees Beaverton making a big mistake on the Paulson baseball stadium -- the same blunder that San Diego made with the Beavers' parent team, the Padres, a while back.

Comments (7)

From my days in San Diego, I can tell you that the San Diego Reader, their version (sort of) of Willamette Week, has lifted up the carpet to show an awful lot of slimy creatures underneath all over "America's Finest City." A good source.

This article asks a good question I haven't seen raised elsewhere: What happens to the new Beavers stadium when Portland gets a major league team? I don't support MLB coming here but I think it's inevitable by about 2020.

The other day I ran across an Oregonian article from 1998 lauding Major League Soccer's purported civic benefits. The writer took it for granted that a future MLS team would simply share Civic Stadium (as it was then known) with minor-league baseball. What has changed since then to make this impossible?

The benefits in any stadium proposal--regardless of where it's built--flow mainly to the Paulsons. Unless the people of Beaverton have taken complete leave of their senses, they'll vote this down by a big margin.

However, nobody should make any decisions based on the likelihood that Portland will soon be home to MLB. Unless baseball radically changes its economic structure, MLB won't be feasible in Portland for a long time.

Until the majority of MLB team owners realize that they're simply playing the role of Washington Generals to the sport's half dozen or so "Globetrotters" (Yanks, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Mets, Cubs,and one or two other big-market, high payroll teams) and demand a hard salary cap with significant sharing of local media revenues, a Portland franchise would be just another weakling. Right now, this is a good market for a AAA team that's run efficiently.

Just read the article. Comment #4 kinda has a familiar ring to it...

Rural Resident, you're right on the money. Even worse, the odds are that the Paulsons will keep control for a long, long time by switching out stadiums (stadia?) when the tax writeoffs expire. That's what happened in Dallas when Ray Hunt of Hunt Oil started his little games thirty years ago. First, it's the fact that Dallas needed a huge indoor arena, and Hunt worked out a 20-year tax abatement and a 20-year lock on parking revenue collection for what became Reunion Arena. Since it was built way out from everything else in Dallas, and Hunt insisted upon everything from rights to the airspace to the mineral rights, the city paid for Reunion while Hunt collected all of the revenues.

Then, twelve years ago, suddenly the city was in a panic. See, Reunion didn't have skyboxes for the greedheads, so we either had to pay for a new arena or lose the Dallas Stars and Mavericks. (This was right about the time Mark Cuban was buying the Mavericks, so nobody's really sure if he would have moved the team. Tom Hicks, the guy who convinced George W. Bush to run for the Presidency, was throwing all sorts of hissy fits about moving the Stars out of Dallas, though, just to panic the local daily and weekly newspaper editors into believing that we were going to lose our bottom-rung hockey team.) Suddenly, it's vital that Dallas have a brand new stadium, and it's vital that it be built atop a chemical waste site that just happened to be owned by one of Ray Hunt's buddies. Once again, the city was expected to pay for the majority of it, and Hunt also collects the majority of the revenue generated by it.

The punchline? One of the deals with the new American Airlines Center was that it had first dibs on every incoming show that would normally run at Reunion, from the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus to the latest Journey reunion tour. Now that Hunt was expected to pay his fair share in taxes, amazingly Reunion wasn't able to make a profit, requiring massive tax breaks to sustain it. Many acts specifically requested to play at Reunion, and were told that this was impossible because of the agreement, even though AA Center was booked solid for those timeslots. Ergo, the only option Hunt would accept was to demolish Reunion Arena, and it couldn't even be a quick implosion. Instead, it's been a slow, painful teardown, billed to the city by a company also run by one of Hunt's friends.

Not to be left out, that's the same exact situation going on with Texas Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys. The city of Irving wasn't willing to pay enough for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to keep the team in town, so he waited for Arlington to throw him lots of incentives and kick out a lot of residents to build the new billion-dollar Cowboys Stadium. This monstrosity will never make a profit for the city, and I can guarantee that Jones or his heirs will bail out and move the Cowboys somewhere else as soon as he's flensed the city for every last penny he can get. My sister-in-law, one of those longterm Cowboys fans who practically bleeds blue and silver, says "Jones speaks only one language: greed."

If Beaverton's dumb enough to accept the Paulson deal, expect Little Lord Merritt to pull this garbage every time he might have to pay his fair share. Every 18 years, it'll be an ongoing sob story of how his teams need a new stadium because the tile in the restrooms is an unacceptable color, and they'll go through the same line of threats, hissy fits, and whining all over again. The city is better off telling him not only where to go but to make sure the gates of Hell don't hit him on the butt on the way in.

The whole MLS/Beavers deal smells like a big steaming dog turd, doesn't it? But I do feel a lot more empathy for MP after reading his glowing profile by Anna Griffin.

Yes, I'm waiting for the press release any day now that Anna Griffin will be one of Paulson's new PR flacks....

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