More details have emerged about the parties interested in bringing a Major League Baseball team to Portland, with a retired Nike executive connected to the group.
While Portland has been speculated for years as a prospective MLB market, there appears to be new momentum behind the idea of bringing a team to the Oregon city. A group has been reported to be in contact with city about the effort for a team and a new ballpark, while an announcement later this week is expected to provide more information on the plans.
Some key names are being connected to the effort, known as the Portland Diamond Project, including retired Nike executive Craig Cheek and former Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) announcer Mike Barrett. While it is unknown who else is involved with the group, Portland Diamond Project has been working behind the scenes for months, per a report from The Oregonian/OregonLive:
Portland Diamond Project was founded last July, according to its articles of organization. No owner or manager is listed. But Cheek’s name appears on paperwork the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission showing it sought to raise $6 million and had already sold equity worth $500,000 to two unnamed investors. Cheek is listed on the SEC filing as Portland Diamond Project’s executive officer and director, and records show the company is registered at the address of his riverfront home in Lake Oswego.
The company’s website went online in July of last year, domain registration records show. The entire site is a landing page showing only a circular blue, black and white logo, with a calligraphy-styled capital “P” in the center.
Lobbyist registration records filed with the state ethics commission and the City of Portland show Cheek’s company is being represented by high-power lobbying firm Oxley and Associates. Four days after Oxley was retained, Mayor Ted Wheeler met for breakfast with its vice president, Evyan Andries, at downtown steak and seafood restaurant Jake’s Grill, records show. Andries didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Wheeler spokesman Michael Cox confirmed the meeting was about bringing an MLB team to Portland.
“They didn’t make any asks. They just wanted to brief us on their thoughts,” Cox said of the meeting. Cox said he was not present for the one hour appointment.
Portland has come up in the past as a potential MLB market, but there has been little appetite locally for allocating public funds toward a new ballpark. While a ballpark site and funding plan would have to be resolved, the question of how Portland would ultimately obtain a team is another issue. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred looks to be interested in expansion, but any serious talk will likely wait until after the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s resolve their respective ballpark issues.
Though neither of those clubs have finalized a plan, they are working within their current regions, as the A’s are canvassing Oakland for a new ballpark site and the Rays are pursuing a new facility in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood. For right now, the challenges facing the teams are distinct, as A’s have not settled on a site, while the Rays have a site but no firm timeline or funding plan.
If neither of those teams relocate, Portland could come up as an expansion candidate. The mix of potential expansion markets could yield some interesting options, as Montreal’s push to replace the Expos appears to have new momentum and Manfred has spoken highly of San Antonio as a potential expansion market (indeed, a group of investors that includes a high-profile industry veteran has been quietly working behind the scenes in San Antonio).