Baseball has always had a strong and welcome presence in the Rose City. Although Portland has never had a Major League Baseball team, minor league teams have been a part of the community since 1903. But in 2010, the Portland Beavers, the AAA Minor League affiliate of the San Diego Padres, moved to El Paso, Texas, leaving a void that has yet to be filled.
Recently, there has been greater push for a professional baseball team in Portland. Beginning in the spring of 2018, a prospective MLB ownership group known as the Portland Diamond Project (PDP) began contacting city officials regarding stadium plans in downtown Portland. John McIsaac, a spokesperson for PDP, addresses their promotional success, saying, “We’ve gotten the word out through a mix of PR, social media and grassroots community engagement‒including local politicians, businesspeople, and other influencers.” The Portland Diamond Project is managed by retired Nike Vice President Craig Cheek and former Portland Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett, with help from Jason Atkinson, a lawyer and former Oregon State Senator. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara have also provided funding for the Project. Over the summer, the Project gained traction, hosting numerous publicity events and working to pinpoint a location for a stadium, which is rumored to be announced in the coming weeks. Possible sites include Portland Public Schools headquarters in North Portland; industrial property owned by ESCO, a metal foundry, in Northwest Portland; South Waterfront property known as Zidell Yards; and Terminal Two, a marine facility near the Fremont Bridge.
An MLB-sized stadium would pose a new and unique challenge to the owners of Portland Diamond Project as well as the city of Portland. “We’d like to have the first pitch thrown by 2022, but still have yet to secure the real estate.” says McIsaac. The last time a stadium was built in Portland was in 1995, with the construction of the Rose Garden, now renamed the Moda Center. In the case of the Rose Garden, Paul Allen, the late billionaire owner of the Portland Trail Blazers, put up nearly 200 of the 265 million dollars required to build the stadium. Portland Diamond Project ownership doesn’t nearly have the amount of capital needed to cover a baseball stadium. This may translate to a bulk of the cost coming from city funds or the city population through taxes.
Portland Diamond Project is still confident in its ability to build a stadium and determined to complete the journey of bringing professional baseball to Portland. “To me, as a local boy, this is not just about baseball; it’s about leaving the city better than it was when I was born here. It’s a legacy project,” says McIsaac.
The months after the World Series will prove to be pivotal in talks between PDP owners and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. If Portland’s growing demand is met with success in the early stages, baseball’s return may be closer than we think.