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Hillsboro expected to reach lease agreement with Bears tonight

Proposed Hillsboro ballpark

The Hillsboro (Ore.) City Council is expected to approve a lease for a new ballpark with the Yakima Bears (short season A; Northwest League) after meetings tonight.

The council is scheduled for a work session to discuss changes to a proposed lease and ballpark agreement with the Bears, who would move to a new facility at the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex for the 2013 season. Following the work session, the lease will be up for a vote, and all parties are expecting to come to final agreement tonight: team owners Mike and Laura McMurray and GM K.L. Wombacher are expected to be on hand.

Under the provisions of the lease — detailed here — the Bears will pay $150,000 annually in rent, rising  by 3 percent annually for the 20-year term. The team will retain all ballpark revenue, with the city keeping parking revenue and a $1 ticket surcharge. Hillsboro will keep 70 percent of any naming-rights revenue, with the team keeping 30 percent. The city will issue bonds to pay for the new facility; in an unusual move these days, city general funds could be invoked to pay off bonds should rent, parking and ticket revenue not be enough to cover debt. (This seems likely: if the team draws 180,000 fans annually and the city makes an average naming-rights deal, ballpark revenues should total $855,000 or so annually.) The $15.2 million figure discussed here is the total cost of the project, including bonding costs. Hillsboro will manage the ballpark and retain the right to hold events there on non-game days.

Groundbreaking of the ballpark is tentatively set for October, with a June 2013 opening planned. Hoffman Construction will design and build the new facility. The Bears’ lease in Yakima runs through 2015 but can be broken if the team pays a penalty.

The move marks the return of professional baseball to the greater Portland area, left vacant when the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) moved to Tucson. Another ballpark effort in nearby Milwaukie is also underway.

Image courtesy of Hillsboro.

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