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Portland Group Continuing MLB Push

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The Portland Diamond Project continues its push to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Portland, noting encouraging feedback from the league office.

There has been new momentum behind the effort to bring an MLB team and new ballpark to the Oregon city. Retired Nike executive Craig Cheek, former Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) announcer Mike Barrett, and former state lawmaker Jason Atkinson are among the backers of the Portland Diamond Project. The group’s proposal calls for a 32,000-seat ballpark as the centerpiece of a multiuse development that could include up to 8,000 apartments, and two sties have been publicly linked to the effort. Those include the current Portland Public Schools’ headquarters–located near the Moda Center– and the Esco Industrial site, which was once was home to a former pro baseball ballpark in the city–Vaughn Street Park.

Any effort to bring MLB to Portland would take years to come to fruition, and there are many questions that will have to be addressed along the way. However, in a recent interview, Portland Diamond Project backers noted some positive feedback from MLB while emphasizing the importance behind the timing of their effort. More from The Oregonian/Oregon Live:

“We’ve told them if we are a stalking horse, if we are simply a leverage play for you, count us out, and we have never heard that,” Mike Barrett, a managing partner with the Portland Diamond Project, said Wednesday. “We have heard, ‘Keep doing the great things you’re doing.’

“… We wouldn’t have put our collective leverage, both relational, capital, whatever, at risk or at play if we all weren’t confident and if we weren’t getting the proper messaging back from the people we’re working with on those levels.”

Barrett and fellow managing partners Craig Cheek and Jason Atkinson made their comments Wednesday during an extended interview on Portland radio station KXTG’s “Bald Faced Truth” show with The Oregonian/OregonLive sports columnist John Canzano…..

“You can’t talk enough about how animated we get because we feel we are on the clock,” said Cheek, a retired Nike vice president who oversaw the company’s baseball business late in his career. “If we miss this window Portland may look back in a decade and go, ‘Oh my gosh, how did we miss that?’

There are still plenty of unanswered questions about where Portland stands in its MLB pursuit. Expansion is unlikely to be seriously discussed by the league until the ballpark searches of the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays are settled, and both teams are working to build new ballparks in their current markets. It is possible that one of or both of those teams will come up short in their current locales, but for now it does not seem that either team is in the mix for a relocation.

Along with settling on a final site, any Portland ballpark project will have to have a funding plan in place. A $150 million bond approved by the Oregon Legislature in 2003 for a previous MLB effort would likely factor into the equation, but it remains to be seen how the remainder of the funding model would come together.

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