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Portland task force gives preliminary approval to new Bevos ballpark — with plenty of conditions

The recommendation from Portland’s Major League Soccer Task Force was highly cautious, to say the least, and calls for owner Merritt Paulson to put in almost more than twice the amount he originally pledged.
Portland’s Major League Soccer Task Force is giving the green light to renovation of PGE Park for pro soccer and a new ballpark for the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), but the recommendation was weighed down with so many conditions and safeguards it may be hard for owner owner Merritt Paulson to pull off the deal.

Paulson had proposed the city borrowing $85 million for the PGE Park renovation and the new Bevos ballpark. The task force agreed with the basic premise, but added several conditions to shield taxpayers in case something goes wrong, basically putting all risk on the back of Paulson. For instance, no general-fund revenues would be used in case revenue from Paulson’s teams comes up short. (This may make issuing the bonds problematic, but that’s a whole other issue.) And if MLS goes under, Paulson would be required to pay off the bonds no matter what.

In addition, Paulson — or someone other than the city — would need to come up with the $20-$40 million that represents what the city is expecting and what it will cost to repay the loans. That’s a huge deal: it has the potential to basically double what he’s is expected to pay up front for the new facilities; under his plan he was responsible only for the $40 million MLS expansion fee.

Also driving up Paulson’s price tag: he would be required to cover any construction budget overruns. And there are always overruns.

Paulson expressed caution at the proposal, and we’re not entirely sure he’s willing to go along with all the conditions. "At some point it doesn’t make sense," he told the Oregonian. "But we’re doing everything we can to make it happen." And keep in mind this is just a recommendation, though Mayor Sam Adams had signaled he’s willing to support the recommendations of the task force.

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