Friday, November 6, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

It's a grand idea with a lot of moving parts, but as much as I would love this to come true, I'm far too grounded and cynical to think this has any prayer of being implemented. Perhaps I'm just a bit wounded from the MLS to PDX process or watching the current Beavers being treated as the metaphorical "stuff stuck on the bottom of shoes that I'm trying to scrape off" as they move from city to city in an attempt to find a home. I just can't sit back and listen to delusional thinking like this without dousing it with a cold dose of reality.
Yes, MLB came calling way back when the former Montreal Expos were looking for a home, and Portland had a winning combination of a good sized television market, very good television ratings, and a decent sized interim facility that could work while a permanent stadium could be determined. The fans rallied about town putting forth passion behind ideas to bring the team here, and there was some solid framework put in place to attempt to lure the Expos here. MLB did tour the area and stadium, and kept Portland on the long list of potential sites, but eventually the team moved to Washington DC into RFK Stadium until their new park was built.
But how seriously was Portland being considered? On the surface, you might think we were in the running until the very end, but MLB used San Juan, Puerto Rico as a temporary home for the Expos for some series to try and gage support. Northern Virginia was in the running as an alternate site to DC, and might have done enough to earn the team had Washington DC not sweeted their offer. As painful as it might be to admit, the Expos were going to end up in DC, regardless of what any other city was going to do. MLB wanted the market, and did what they could to steer the team there.
And here it is more than 10 years later, and Portland sits with essentially the same stadium and the big league dreams of luring MLB here. This goes on despite the fact that corporate entities have left our area, employment number have struggled, tax opponents and public assistance foes have become more of a formidable force, and we have failed in supporting the baseball team we currently have. Mind you, there's nothing that translates support for a triple AAA team into how an MLB team is supported, but at the same time, we can't figure out a permanent stadium for a minor league baseball team, but somehow we can for MLB at 10 times the cost?
I get this is a blue sky dream, and it's nice to dream and think about what might be if you have enough passion, forethought, and have some of the building blocks in place. Portland would be a huge asset to any league they join, as evidenced by the support they give the Trail Blazers not only as fans, but corporate citizens and tax payers.  We love our teams a lot, and that gives us hope that any new team has a better than fighting chance to survive. But sports like MLB require far more corporate support than we have available, far more government involvement than we've provided to know, and far more fans than I think could support the team long term. MLS is a better alternative simply because of the scale of the league and the other infastructrue needs, and there's a built in fan base for the current Timbers soccer team.
There might be a point where MLB makes sense for this area, and it would be amazing to be here when it happens, but this dream requires a lot more than simply wishing and hoping for what might be.

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