Tuesday, November 3, 2009

That Certainly Didn’t Take Long

I got the email from the Trail Blazers announcing a new and exciting vision for the Memorial Coliseum area, calling it JumpTown. The ideas are flowing, with potential thoughts bringing a farmers market/grocery store to the area, other additional commerce, a sports museum with Nike’s involvement, a brew pub, and a revamped Coliseum with smaller seating with other events, concerts and Winterhawks hockey all envisioned as tenants of the new arena. It sure looks like a novel concept, and even as I looked at the slick, vibrant presentation, I even saw some things that had slight interest to me.

The announcement of this site was timed in conjunction with the city also putting forth efforts to revitalize the area. They’ve developed a site as well, and are asking for input from residents about what to do with the Rose Quarter area. Granted, the MC has historical designation now, so design plans must fit within the parameters of dealing with a historic property, but the site is soliciting any thoughts about what to do here. The Oregonian also provided their take, with some quotes from the Trail Blazers about wanting a smaller MC and something to take advantage of Portland’s history as a music center, using the name JumpTown as homage to some of the jazz clubs that used to populate the area.

I’m sure there will be lots of people that will see this idea, and get very excited about the possibilities for the area. I mean it’s been 15 years since the Rose Garden was built, and there’s been dozens of ideas thrown out in an attempt to jump start the area as a destination point outside of nights where the Trailblazers or a concert are in the area. But I have my own thoughts about the concept, and what I think will happen here.

Memorial Coliseum is the perfect site for baseball, and it would have provided a huge jumpstart to the area with a ball park that would attract people at differing times than the Blazers. Why it took this long to push this idea forward is beyond me, but anyone that seriously thinks this won’t cost the taxpayers as much or more that the original $50 million dollars that a ball park would have cost is kidding themselves. The Blazers don’t mind competition as long as they get their piece of the pie, and this plan gives them creative control of the area and control over all of the facilities. And because of the absolute love this town has for the NBA team, there’s a really good chance that this idea will pass even with it costing more than baseball.

The new plan does address the Winterhawks, which is a good thing in my opinion. They have a strong fan base, the team is actually performing well this year, and there’s some buzz about hockey, and I think they deserve a home that works for them in the metro area. However, their better home is the Rose Garden, and keeping them there books more dates there to keep the arena occupied. And this plan does nothing to resolve the problem of baseball, who right now needs someone to step up and care about it. And I’m still convinced that had baseball not come knocking to the area, we’d still be talking about what to do with that area for the next few years. The Trail Blazers have done little to nothing in that region, and it was only after baseball came calling that plans suddenly materialized.

Baseball has a long history in the Rose City, and while we may not have many Portland Beavers fans, we have a lot of fans of baseball. Because of the MLS effort, the Beavers are not able to stay at PGE Park, which is a middling baseball park at best. The original design of the park was for track and field, and the horseshoe was meant to be completed on both sides, but baseball fit there during the times where multi purpose stadiums were the rage, and so PGE Park gained history as a baseball park. A newer ballpark would be a great investment in the history of baseball here, plus provide another great entertainment option during the long summers here in Portland. A stadium could also help spur some economic development in whatever area they choose, but the simple fact is that a city of this size should be able to find a home for baseball at a reasonable price.

It’s not the fault of soccer that baseball is in the predicament it is, as the fans of the Timbers voiced their opinion about MLS and given the recent instability of the USL, it seems like moving up couldn’t happen soon enough. The fact is that baseball fans have been very quiet about the future of their team, as soccer, basketball and hockey fans have all made their voices heard and as such, plans are in place to help their teams. Now it’s time for baseball fans to be heard, and make sure that we have America’s pastime here to enjoy for years to come.

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