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Legislation Could Jeopardize Potential Portland Ballpark Funding Source

Proposed Portland Ballpark rendering

Efforts are underway to repeal a law that permits up to $150 million in bonding for a new Portland ballpark, potentially jeopardizing a funding source for the latest proposal.

Portland has been speculated as a potential destination for Major League Baseball for years, and Oregon lawmakers took a step in 2003 to provide a possible funding source for a new ballpark. Senate Bill 5 (SB 5), the legislation approved at the time, allows for up to $150 million in state-issued bonds if a Portland ballpark is constructed, with that money to be backed by an income tax collected from players’ salaries.

The MLB to Portland effort quieted over the years but has gained new momentum under the Portland Diamond Project, which unveiled a proposal in late November for a new ballpark and surrounding development at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 2. Though much of the project is expected to be privately financed, it has been anticipated that the bond money approved under the 2003 law would factor into its funding model. With the state legislative session getting underway this month, Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick–a Portland Democrat–has filed a bill that would repeal the 2003 legislation. Four other senators are backing her bill, while similar legislation is being introduced in the Oregon house. Unsurprisingly, Portland Diamond Project opposes the efforts to repeal SB 5. More from Willamette Week:

Burdick is joined by Sens. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham), Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro) and Rep. Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro) on the repeal bill. Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland) is sponsoring a similar bill in the House.

Burdick is the Senate’s second most powerful member, and if she makes it a priority, the legislation would have a good chance of passing, given that both chambers are controlled by Democrats. Burdick did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

John McIsaac, a spokesman for Portland Diamond Project, says the group opposes the bills.

“None of this $150 million bond currently exists today and won’t exist until a team comes to Oregon and begins paying its employees and players,” says McIsaac in a statement. “SB 5 also helps protect the State and the City of Portland from needing to raise or spend taxpayer dollars on a ballpark. This lets the teams themselves have skin in the game and help pay for a portion of the ballpark.”

Plenty of work has to be done to make the proposed Portland ballpark a reality, and it remains to be seen how the Portland Diamond Project would land a team. The group has seemingly made the city a more intriguing landing spot, though, with the reveal of the proposal for a new ballpark. Portland Diamond Project is backed by a group that includes retired Nike executive Craig Cheek, along with former Portland Trail Blazers (NBA) announcer Mike Barrett and former Oregon state senator Jason Atkinson. Seattle Seahawks quarterback and former Colorado Rockies farmhand Russell Wilson, along with his wife, the singer and entertainer Ciara, are also investing in the effort.

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