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Milwaukie has week to decide ballpark fate

Proposed Milwaukie ballpark

Milwaukie (Ore.) has a week to decide if a new ballpark for a summer-collegiate West Coast League team is in the city’s future — or whether a team is unable to justify the revenue necessary for a large-scale project.

Spurned by the short-season Northwest League, the city has turned to the WCL as a possible tenant for what’s turning out to be a 2,000-seat facility, down from the 5,000 or so seats originally envisioned for a pro team. That the WCL will generate far less in revenue than a pro team is a given; how much less will be revealed by next Tuesday, when the city council meets to discuss the issue. A plan to borrow money for a ballpark must be approved by August 23 in order to make the fall ballot; hence the rush to decide on the fate of ballpark that could open in 2014 or 2015.

Part of the issue: along with the ballpark, Milwaukie will need to invest in street changes in order to make the proposed ballpark site work, we’ve been told, so it’s not simply a matter of just throwing down a field and grandstand and welcoming a WCL team. Some councillors were talking about spending between $10 million and $12 million for a new ballpark; we don’t think it’s very likely a summer-collegiate team can generate the kind of economic activity it would take to pay off those bonds. A more reasonable goal: between $3 million and $4 million. Still, some in Milwaukie are really hot for baseball, so they may carry the day.

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