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It’s MLB expansion time again, with another Portland ballpark plan unveiled

You know that things are getting back to normal on the economic and COVID-19 fronts when discussions of future MLB expansion emerge in league circles, as officials count the money and another Portland plan is floated.

Despite a slowdown of play due to COVID-19 in the last year, talk of MLB expansion never went away: with an expansion team potentially costing investors $2.2 billion, the proceeds of a bump from 30 to 32 teams–putting each league at an even 16 teams–would cover many of the losses experienced by MLB teams since March 2020. Nothing really has changed on the MLB side of the equation since the last time we reported on expansion: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has consistently held that his sport will not consider expansion until ballpark issues are resolved for the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have been quiet as of late, even with St. Petersburg commissioning studies on the future of the Tropicana Field site, while the A’s have requested the Oakland Cty Council to approve the team’s plans for a new downtown waterfront ballpark.

It’s not as though there’s a lack of investors interested on MLB expansion, with the Nashville MLB effort regularly bringing in high-profile investors and the Portland Diamond Project continuing to monitor events. The investors are key: though Manfred has mention Las Vegas, Charlotte and Vancouver as potential hosts for an expansion team, we’re not entirely sure there are investor groups in place in those cities–at least not any who are as advanced as Nashville or Montreal, which would be positioned to land an expansion team should a deal to share the Tampa Bay Rays falls through.

It would appear that Portland has a new option to land an expansion team, where Lynn Lashbrook and Jeffrey DeBois have been working on a new-ballpark plan in Gresham, OR, east of Portland. They’ve released a rendering of a mass-timber ballpark that would serve as the basis of a 250-acre mixed-use development with entertainment, affordable housing, retail, office space and more. Right now the planning is at the conceptual phases–no investors have signed on–but with Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall supportive of the concept, you can expect talk to continue:

“People in Rockwood are trying to create better situations and opportunities,” DeBois said. “I think a stadium could be a shining star in the community as an anchor tenant, with so many other businesses thriving alongside it.”

He envisions an eco-friendly campus with affordable housing and job opportunities. The stadium would draw people to the neighborhood, but then after games they would eat and shop in Rockwood.

“We could create this city within a city — bring all the positive aspects of a quality development,” DeBois said. “It is thrilling to potentially create such a positive thing for the community, it keeps me up at night.”

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