With a critical community committee putting off a vote for a new ballpark in the Lents area, city leaders and the Portland Beavers will move ahead with a renovation of PGE Park and worry about a ballpark plan later.
To say that things are up in the air about the future of the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) is an understatement, as developments today have served to muddy the waters — and not clarify them, as many assumed they would.
Scheduled for today was a crucial vote of the Lents Urban Renewal Advisory Committee on whether to support or oppose the proposal for a publicly financed ballpark in the Lents area. The meeting of the committee will indeed take place tonight, but members decided to put off the vote for another week; we're guessing most are getting an earful from Lents residents and want more time to make a very important decision. Councilman Dan Saltzman says he'll vote whichever way the Lents committee goes, but without his vote the proposed renovation of PGE Park and funding for a new ballpark would fail on a 2-2 tie vote.
Without input from Lents residents, Mayor Sam Adams and Council Randy Leonard — the two biggest proponents of a Lents ballpark among city leaders — say they're willing to support a renovation of PGE Park without a game plan for the Beavers. That's a significant shift for Leonard, who has said he would not support a PGE Park renovation if the Beavers are in danger of leaving.
We do not think they ara. We've said for weeks we've heard from MLS sources that the soccer league is not as adamant about PGE Park being a soccer-only facility as Paulson claims it is: we've suspected all along this was a negotiating ploy to get a new ballpark as well as renovation money. And PGE Park can certainly be renovated to allow for both MLS soccer and the Bevos. We also think Branch Rickey III would raise holy hell if the Beavers left Portland: It's the biggest market in the Pacific Coast League, and Rickey worked very hard to bring baseball back to Portland after a short absence.
If the Lents community group does indeed oppose a new Bevos ballpark, don't look owner Merritt Paulson to announce a move to Vancouver the suburb or Vancouver the large city. Instead, look for the announcement of a magic PGE Park renovation plan that allows for MLS soccer and the continued operations of the Beavers in a historic facility. Not the worst plan in the world, really.
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