The first Pacific Coast League schedules are being released, and they all show the same thing: Portland. But we know the Beavers won’t be playing at PGE Park next season, so the name is just a placeholder, as no decision has been made about the future of the team. But with some increased ballpark talk in the Rose City and no sale of the team yet, it increasingly looks like Merritt Paulson will hang onto the team and park it somewhere for the 2011 season.
That somewhere, we continue to hear, is Tucson. After spending some time in Portland last week and talking to locals and the Beavers front office, some things are clearer.
First, Paulson clearly doesn’t feel compelled to sell the team: he’s entertained several offers (most on the low-ball side, we’re told) but is not coming close to selling the PCL franchise. The potential sale of the team to the Padres — who would place the team in Lake Elsinore for the 2010, playing some series in Petco Park — is on ice for now.
Second, we’re told directly by team officials that Paulson would hold onto the team and park it for a year outside of Portland if a new ballpark were forthcoming in the Rose City. While discussions are in the early stages, there’s been an increased debate lately — fueled by talk radio, interestingly enough — on the use of the Memorial Coliseum site for a ballpark. That site came up before and was rejected by the city after preservationists argued for the reuse of the historic arena. But an affordable reuse plan has been hard to pin down: spending millions on its renovation for use by the Portland Winter Hawks (WHL) hasn’t engendered much enthusiasm, and the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) ownership wants to see something at the site that would bring folks to a new entertainment district next to the Rose Garden year-round. Trading a historic arena for a new ballpark is now something city officials would consider.
Which was predictable: with the team down to its final games, the sense of loss is very real for baseball fans. The Beavers don’t draw that well in PGE Park, but we’re not going to pin that all on the Beavers: the team runs a good game-day experience and we saw plenty of evidence of team marketing in the city and on the local airwaves. The team’s not been run as a lame-duck effort.
So, here’s the most likely scenario right now in a highly fluid situation, from what we can gather from all available sources. Paulson will hang onto the team and find a place to play in 2011: Tucson seems his best bet to make a few bucks. With the loss of the team real, Portland officials will take efforts toward a new ballpark more seriously; expect to hear lots of debate about the Memorial Coliseum site in coming weeks.
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