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Portland Diamond Project shows signs of life, scouting new ballpark locales

Portland Diamond ProjectWritten off by many in the industry for a lack of activity, the Portland Diamond Project is showing some signs of life, scouting locations for a new MLB ballpark that includes the iconic Lloyd Center mall site.

The Portland Diamond Project was active before COVID, scouting out new-ballpark sites and bringing in initial investors like Russell Wilson and Ciara. But COVID took a lot of steam out of the group’s efforts, and uncertainty surrounding the status of new Oakland and Tampa Bay ballpark efforts didn’t help, freezing the industry from mapping out the inevitable expansion plans. The preferred waterfront site for the group ended up tangled in red tape as well. No site, no schedule, no plan, no visibility.

But there is some enthusiasm for MLB ball in Portland, and we’re hearing of reports that the group has been scouting out ballpark locations. The current preferred site, according to the Oregonian, is the Lloyd Center, once a high-end mall in Northeast Portland’s Lloyd District that’s fallen on tough times. Anchors like Nordstrom surrounded a mall area featuring an ice rink where Tonya Harding learned to skate. But the ice rink was downsized, all the anchors moved out, and the mall fell into foreclosure:

The Diamond Project has been linked to the Lloyd Center for years, but it has emerged as a more realistic target, sources said, after other sites lost steam and as the once popular mall, known for its ice skating rink failed to rebound from the pandemic and fell into foreclosure.

If we view baseball as an economic driver that can be part of the solution amid Portland’s existential crisis, which I think we should, then to the principals involved in any negotiation, I say this: Get it done.

Project this out a couple of decades, and it’s easy to imagine that corridor as Portland’s cultural and entertainment center, with an MLB park anchoring one end of the district and the Rose Quarter just three stops away on the MAX’s Red, Blue or Green line.

With the A’s one step closer to a new Las Vegas ballpark and work proceeding on a potential new home for the Tampa Bay Rays, we’re moving closer to a decision to expand to 32 teams. No secret that MLB, for a variety of reasons, would like to see eastern and western expansion teams. Out west, the early favorites have to be Salt Lake City and Portland–and the sooner the Portland Diamond Project can come up with a ballpark site and investor lineup the better.

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