Friday, October 30, 2009

Read It And Weep...

Read this information and weep if you are a baseball fan in Portland. Weep if you are a sports fan, weep if you care about the long term future of this city, weep if this decision just makes you frustrated about the “process” that people around here keep talking about, because today is a truly frustrating day for all of us. The game to find a home for baseball continues, and the list of potential sites grows, as Merritt Paulson decided to suspend negotiations to put a ballpark in Beaverton today.

This doesn’t close the door to a ballpark being put out there, nor does it mean the park couldn’t end up out there. It just means that the Beavers can’t rely on the timeframe of Beaverton to get the particulars in motion to meet the construction schedule, so they need to open up the situation to other groups in the hopes to get things figured out by the start of next year. Opponents of the idea will sit back and rejoice this situation, saying that we’ve won this war on the “boondoggle” of the ball park and it’s a matter of time before Paulson has left the city with his teams in tow.

So then I ask these people, then what happens? You have a park that still has money owed upon it, and suddenly you have no tenants to help you pay off the debt, so who pays? We all do. Think that other potential owners will look at Portland and see this as a place where they could build a winning, financially successful franchise? Hardly, as potential businesspersons have to look at this situation and what happened with the Lumberjax, and see what this city really is at its core. We love our NBA team, and everything else can just fall by the wayside.

Seriously, how is this city supporting two full time sports radio stations yet we only have one true major sport within our area? It’s because we love our Trail Blazers no matter what, and if you just mention something about them, there will be those that will talk anytime, anywhere at great length no matter what else is going on. We all love to dream about what might be with the team, potential players and trades, the future of the NBA, and we’ll drop everything to talk with others that share our affliction. It’s ratings gold, but at the same point, if you like other sports within the city, you’re second class.

There’s enough traction to get attention with the MLB and NFL teams up north, and during football time, the Ducks and Beavers can wrestle some time away, but for the most part, we are Trail Blazers through and through, and that helps prove we are a solid, committed market. But it also labels us as completely small minded because we can’t see past what we can to see the potential of what might be with something else. God forbid the Trail Blazers ever went through financial trauma, and see what the market would do. Wait, we did, and nothing dramatically changed. The television coverage here is some of the worst in terms of seeing games unless you have Comcast, yet we put up with it and fill the stadium each night because we love our team.

And it’s that love that makes it hard for us to look at anything else and give it any sort of attention. Soccer may be a wonderful thing in town, but if it’s such a good idea, why doesn’t the team pay for it like Paul Allen? Well, Paul Allen paid for most of the arena, but had some help from the city to make it happen, and they are also in control of any development in that area, even if the city owns the Memorial Coliseum. We got lucky that our basketball guy is one of the richest men in the world, and he’s figured out that we love our team enough that we’ll do just about anything and put up with just about any antics and still keep coming back.

The naysayers don’t want their tax money going towards a stadium, yet don’t see a problem with monies going towards other businesses that may or may not bring jobs to the area. I get that stadiums aren’t an exact science in economic development, but some of them work very well in jumpstarting areas, and no economic study done about stadiums has completely captured the full impact of what a new stadium brings. It’s hard to pinpoint every stream of income that a team generates and understand the impact and put it in a study, but hey, they try really hard. The truth is that stadiums may not completely revitalize an area, but as a component, it can help within an overall plan. And, apparently, the bars and restaurants outside stadiums that are full of people don’t generate any economic impact.

It’s redistribution of income, so it doesn’t really matter. And I suppose those people have never really cared enough about anything to give up their vacation time, spend thousands of dollars and travel and other supplies just to follow a team and show their passion for something. It’s easier to just keep things as they are, because we live in tough times and the economics of the world mean we have to be conservative. If we make a decision about this, what happens if it’s wrong? There's been other cities that have had problems with ball parks, so we have to be careful we don't fall into the same trap, despite the fact that the deals proposed for baseball put the majority of the risk on Paulson and left the city's revenue streams in tact.

We elect our officials to make tough decisions and run the city, yet there are those fringe elements that spend their time distrusting everything about the process, while a huge majority is too busy living paycheck to paycheck to even care about anything more than the bottom line. And if I’m a fringe element, I can make up pithy things to scare this mass group into some activity, even if it’s inactivity or wanting to force a vote. It's important to micro manage these groups, because apparently the people need to be trusted more, yet we're the ones that elected these people to represent us in the first place. I can imagine this is why we don’t have people beating down the doors to run for public office.

We’d rather talk and talk and talk, and hope that something happens instead of taking a chance and making something occur. Even when you have a solid idea with good financial return expected, giving a city an asset that could be around for years, it’s easier to play the “what if” game and give our love to a team that cares about as much for us as they care about their bottom line. We don’t want to make a decision, let the process happen where it may, and things will be just fine as long as the Blazers are here.

Never mind that during this process, we’ve given ourselves an image that will be hard to shake. We’re not the city that works, we’re the city that would rather talk about things, and only work if it makes sense and everyone is in agreement. The only problem with this kind of leadership is that it does nothing more that ensure the status quo of keeping things as they are. There’s nothing visionary, nothing earth shattering, nothing game breaking, it’s more just care taking. Maybe that’s something you all can get behind, but I can’t. I’m tired of this process and tired of this area getting in its own way despite the best intentions. I don’t want to envision a PGE Park sitting empty in 2011 with no teams, but today, that reality became much more likely that anyone wants to admit.

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