Many of us read Steve Duin's take on the recent stadium issue with Lents last night, and it hit the papers this morning:
Duin is pretty middle of the road on most issues, but I did find his take hard to deal with on a couple of different issues. Like the Memorial Coliseum deal, it appeared that there was little interest in doing anything commercial in Lents until suddenly it was discovered that the Lents area had a pot of urban renewal dollars that they haven't used for some time and there was an area that seemed to work for baseball. Memorial Coliseum might make sense for the ballpark, but you'd have to come up with the money in a private-public mix that ended up making the deal more complicated until the architects started screaming the the MC is a treasure and the Trail Blazers decided they didn't want competition in their back yard. Lents made sense because of a $45 million dollars or so that was ear marked for development in the area for urban renewal, and try as they might, Lents hasn't been able to attract much in terms of bringing big business or other anchor pieces to the area. They've tried but nothing has materialized, and there doesn't seem to be any good ideas right now to attract anything new there at this moment.
The baseball plan wouldn't destroy Lents Park, but build a stadium over the old dilapidated Walker Stadium and add some parking, but apparently there are traffic and parking concerns which would need to be addressed. But the soccer fields are apparently near traffic and are considered by soccer folks to be very dangerous (apparently, someone got hit on a bike during a match there while TA folks were playing on the field) and the fields themselves are in bad shape. I get that people use the park, but the plan here would only use a small portion of it. But apparently, the plan is full of madness, not only with Duin's words but the various comments noted.
What I don't get is that for such a progressive city, we seem to be afraid of making tough decisions which will keep our progressive stance. So we overspent on a tram to OHSU, it was a mistake that people noted because of a lack of oversight, yet some citizens refer to this project as a reason why we need to slow down with progress. Gee, Paul Allen built the Rose Garden so why can't someone just build a soccer park? Allen had the money, and if he had waited for the city to help with the process, the Trail Blazers probably would still be playing in the MC or would be playing elsewhere right now. We're in such a desire to keep Portland weird and in some ways progressive, it almost paralyzes the decision making process because we want our decisions to be risk free and bullet proof. Life doesn't work that way, but for some stupid reason, the leadership in this town doesn't seem to want to make a decision.
I just got late word from the Mayor's Twitter account (http://twitter.com/MayorSamAdams) that the decision makes want to de-couple MLS and the baseball situation, thus allowing each decision to be made independently. While it does mean that there are less moving parts to the proposal and people can look at the merits of each sport individually, what it does mean is that someone needs to keep the overall picture in view. It's been mentioned that MLS would want a Portland team in a stadium where the soccer team controls the scheduling and revenue streams, and while they'd prefer the MLS team to be the single tenant, they are willing to share if it makes sense. PGE Park is entirely too big of a stadium for triple AAA baseball, and they need to find a stadium location that works for selling season tickets and giving everyone a chance to watch games. Very few people buy season tickets for the Beavers, knowing that in a 19,000 seat ballpark, the chances of being shut out of tickets is pretty nil unless you are wanting to watch the 4th of July ballgame. There's a market for each team, and we need to find a way to make it work. I hope that this tactic really means that there will be honest and constructive conversation about the plan, rather than just another excuse for a small minority to trash the idea of the city getting into stadiums instead of helping schools and potholes.