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Bevos ballpark plans back up in the air — and maybe doomed

After planners determined there’s no way a ballpark could physically coexist with Memorial Coliseum in the Rose Quarter, Portland officials take a second look at putting a Portland Beavers ballpark in the Lents area of town — but Bevos owner Merritt Paulson refuses to personally guarantee the project.
The status of a new Portland Beavers (Class AAA: Pacific Coast League) ballpark is muddier than ever after city officials signal their hesitancy in moving forward with a Rose Quarter location — but Bevos owner Merritt Paulson now says that’s the only site that works for him.

The issue: preservationists have successfully convinced key Portland officials that tearing down Memorial Coliseum is a bad idea, so planners set out to design an entertainment district next to the Rose Garden that would keep the historic arena and add a $55.5 million Beavers ballpark. One problem: there’s not enough room for both, even with parts of the ballpark cantilevering above city streets. So what turned into a perfect solution for Paulson and crew was basically eliminated from the mix. (We say basically because the demolition of Memorial Coliseum hasn’t totally been taken off the table.)

So that led Portland officials to revisit the Lents neighborhood as a site for a ballpark. It’s not the first choice of the Beavers, as Paulson tells city officials that he will not personally guarantee a base level of revenues needed to pay off bonds issued for the project — a development that stuns local officials. Paulson obviously is trying to pressure the city into dumping the Lents location and steer it back to the Rose Garden by saying the only site where he’ll personally guarantee revenues is in the Rose District.

Needless to say, city officials aren’t pleased by this turn of events: they want Paulson to personally guarantee the revenues no matter where the ballpark is located.

All of this has seriously eroded support for the new Beavers ballpark among city officials, who now openly talk of sites other than Lents and the Rose District (Terminal One, along the Willamette River in Northwest Portland, has been thrown out as a ballpark site as well). 

Much of this is academic, anyway: there’s still no solid financing plan for a new ballpark and the renovation of PGE Park as a soccer-only facility — something demanded by MLS as a condition of expansion. Privately, we hear some city council members are ready to call MLS’s bluff: considering the most successful MLS franchise this season has been Seattle — playing in a football stadium, Qwest Field — they wonder why MLS and the Beavers can’t coexist in PGE Park. If that happens, you can declare a new Bevos ballpark officially dead.

RELATED STORIES: Portland ballpark vote delayed as mayor adjusts site, financial plans; New Beavers ballpark wouldn’t happen until 2012 — at the earliest; Cost of Portland redevelopment mushrooms to almost $300 million; Crunching the numbers on a new Bevos ballpark; Portland proposes tearing down Memorial Coliseum for new Bevos ballpark; Portland City Council votes to move ahead with new Bevos ballpark — but takes $15 million from the equation; Paulson agrees to Portland’s financial demands; still may not be enough; Bevos ballpark plan runs into serious financial obstacles; Portland task force gives preliminary approval to new Bevos ballpark — with plenty of conditions; Portland ballpark discussion shifts to Rose Quarter; Decision on new Bevos ballpark location delayed; Will new ballpark fly in Lents?

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