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Baseball Back at Vaughn Street? Portland MLB Backers Pitch Two Sites

Vaughn Street, Portland

Pro baseball could return to Vaughn Street, as Portland Diamond Project backers have bid on two potential ballpark sites — including the former home of the minor-league Portland Beavers — in their quest for Major League Baseball.

The Portland group, led by retired Nike executive Craig Cheek and former Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) announcer Mike Barrett, has emerged in the past few weeks with a plan to bring MLB to the Rose City, and the pursuit of two potential ballpark sites is part of that narrative. The plan is to have a 32,000-seat ballpark as the centerpiece of a multiuse development that could include up to 8,000 apartments. To that end, two potential ballpark sites have been identified by Portland Diamond Project.

The first, near the Moda Center arena and currently the site of Portland Public Schools’ headquarters, may have the greater potential for success as a multiuse development because of the traffic already in the area. Valued at $100 million, it’s also the spendier of the two options.

The other option may have more sentimental value, but it certainly has its own set of challenges. The Esco foundry (shown above; Esco stands for Electric Steel Foundry Corporation) sat next to Vaughn Street Park, the long-time home to Portland Beavers minor-league baseball. Vaughn Street Park (shown above) opened in 1901 and was home to the Bevos until 1956, when the team moved to Multnomah Stadium (now Providence Park, home to MLS’s Portland Timbers). Like all ballparks of the era, it was made from wood, and it was prone to fire damage. Groundskeeper Rocky Benevento was famous for his efforts to keep Vaughn Street Park from burning down, patrolling the ground underneath the wooden grandstand and bleachers to make sure a stray cigarette butt didn’t set the place ablaze. (He did not always succeed: the left-field bleachers burned down in 1947.) Portland Diamond Project has been talking about a purchase of part of the Esco property housing an out-of-commission foundry for $14 million. In the above photo, NW Vaughn Street ran on the third-base side of ballpark, while NW 24th Avenue ran along the first-base side and NW 25th Avenue on the west side of the ballpark. The ballpark site would encompass the old Vaughn Street Park as well as a block west to 26th Avenue.

Coming up with sites in heavily developed Portland is a challenge onto itself. And whether either of these sites end up hosting baseball remains to be seen and whether Portland Diamond Project has the financial wherewithal to land a relocating or expansion team.

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