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Clark County postpones ballpark hearing

Proposed Clark County Ballpark

The Clark County Board of Commissions is postponing a final decision on a funding plan for a new short-season Northwest League ballpark, giving the Yakima Bears more time to alter their proposal — but the clock is ticking.

The Bears have until Sept. 23 to finalize a ballpark plan within the team’s exclusive negotiating agreement with Minor League Baseball for the greater Portland territory, generally considered the most desirable open territory in baseball. The Bears had been working with Clark County and Clark College on a ballpark plan where the college would contribute the land, the county would contribute 70 percent of the $22.7-million construction via proceeds from an amusement tax, and the team would pay for 30 percent of the construction cost.

But after some research, it was discovered that a 5 percent amusement tax — opposed by many in the county — would not generate enough revenue to cover the county’s costs. A subsequent proposal calling for private investment fell flat because the board realized no one wanted to invest in a ballpark project knowing they’d never see a single dollar in return on investment.

So the Bears asked for a postponement of the board meeting, giving them time to explore more in the way of a greater financial contribution. A 30 percent funding gap is a pretty huge chasm; the Bears already have pledged much more than most teams would promise toward a new ballpark and a deal make financial sense.

Meanwhile, we hear work continues to be done on a proposed Northwest League ballpark in Milwaukie, despite the Bears’ owners having exclusive rights to the greater Portland territory. If the Clark County effort fails — and that’s a big if, as some smart folks are working on a funding plan — you can expect this proposal to come to life fairly quickly.

RELATED STORIES: County scales back commitment to Portland-area ballpark; Competing ballpark plans in Portland; New Portland-area ballpark could provide economical bump: study; Clark County reverses course; will exclusively negotiate with Bears; Clark County passes on exclusive negotiations with Bears; opposition to new ballpark rises; Funding plan emerges for new Clark County ballpark; Yakima Bears to Portland area


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