With the Portland City Council approving the $31-million conversion of PGE Park to a soccer-only facility, where will the Portland Beavers play in 2011? Some scenarios are emerging, mostly involving the team playing as a road team for the season if a new ballpark is indeed forthcoming.With the Portland City Council last week officially approving a $31-million financial plan to renovate PGE Park into a soccer-only MLS facility, Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson celebrated a major accomplishment. Left unaddressed, however, is what Paulson will do with the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) in 2011, when the PGE Park conversion will be complete.
Paulson and the Portland City Council say they will continue working on a new ballpark for the Bevos, but time is short for anything to open in 2011. It takes time to plan a new ballpark: the Triple-A-level ballparks slated to open in 2011 (Omaha, Sarpy County) have been under construction now for several months. The contingency planning for 2011 is already underway, as PCL officials and the Beavers front office look at alternatives. The City of Portland does have a stake in coming up with a new ballpark: as part of the PGE Park renovations the city agreed to indemnify the Beavers against sanctions by the PCL and MiLB because of the loss of the ballpark.
There are lots of alternatives for 2011, but they all involve the Beavers basically playing as a road team. Using a spring-training ballpark in Phoenix has been discussed, most likely the Peoria sports complex where the Beavers and parent team San Diego Padres train. There's talk of the team playing some series at Petco Park, the home of the Padres. A longer shot is Tucson Electric Park.
Of course, a permanent move may occur: Paulson has been quietly shopping the Beavers, and we hear there's a $17 million price tag on the franchise. One possible move is to Sugar Land, Texas, where local voters last year approved a bond issue for a new ballpark. Sugar Land would love to host Triple-A baseball, but the Houston Astros continue to assert territorial rights, preventing the move of an affiliated team. (That's pretty short-sighted: it virtually ensures the move of indy ball into the Houston suburb.) Otherwise, there aren't a lot of open markets capable of hosting Triple-A baseball: Tucson is not part of any discussions regarding a permanent move, and while there's been talk of owners liking the Vancouver market, we've not heard of any current movement there.
It is sad to see the future of Portland Beavers baseball on life support once again. It's one of the most tradition-rich markets in Minor League Baseball and the largest markets in the Pacific Coast League. It would be a shame to see poor planning lead to yet another demise of the Beavers.
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