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Portland launches MLS campaign

Post by Don Ruiz / The News Tribune on Sep. 3, 2008 at 5:39 pm with No Comments »
September 3, 2008 5:39 pm

The city of Portland today launched a campaign to bring Major League Soccer to town, which will require the bankshot of also creating a new baseball park for the Triple-A Portland Beavers baseball team.

Here’s part of an Associated Press report:

Merritt Paulson, who owns the Portland Timbers soccer team and the Portland Beavers minor league baseball team, is leading the effort to attract an MLS franchise. He was joined by Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard and other community leaders in announcing the campaign.

Under the plans, a new stadium would be built in southeast Portland for the Beavers, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, who currently play at PGE Park.

PGE Park would in turn be renovated to fit the needs of an MLS team. The combined cost of the projects would be about $75 million.

While full details of financing are not necessary in the initial bid, the city must show its commitment to back a team, Paulson said.

"It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a tight timeline," Paulson acknowledged. "But I’m confident we can get it done."

Paulson would own the team, at a cost of $40 million, he said. The new stadium and the renovations to PGE Park would be funded through bonds to be paid for by ticket taxes.

The proposed site of the new 8,000-9,000 seat ballpark, called Lents Park, is already owned by the city.

"It does require the full faith and credit of the city to back those bonds," said Leonard.

He said the economic benefit to the city would outweigh the risks.

"I am very comfortable that it will pay for itself," he said.

Seattle, of course, will jump into MLS next spring. An expansion team will begin play the following spring in Philadephia. And that leaves Portland in competition with other MLS hopefuls such as Atlanta, Las Vegas, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and a second New York franchise.

More information is available at a couple of Web sites: one primarily devoted to Portland getting an MLS team and another aimed at the new Beavers ballpark.

Currently, the USL Timbers and PCL Beavers share PGE Park in downtown Portland.

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