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Portland MLB effort boosted by mayoral support, A’s move

It’s been a pretty good June and July for the Portland Diamond Project: With Las Vegas landing the A’s, Sin City is out of the running as MLB preps for expansion, while Mayor Ted Wheeler is fully supporting the group’s bid for a new ballpark at the Lloyd Center site.

We wrote in May about the latest efforts by the Portland Diamond Project to land an MLB team, focusing on 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 mayor, following the well-established blueprint of using a new ballpark to leverage additional development, sees an MLB expansion team as a way to create a new sports/entertainment district encompassing the nearby Rose Quarter. The new development would include housing, retail and other urban redevelopment, per The Oregonian:

Among the actions under consideration are the creation of a new urban renewal district in the area, providing nearby Holladay Park as a portion of the stadium development plan and pouring money into transportation infrastructure upgrades, according to emails exchanged May 1 between Bobby Lee, Wheeler’s chief of staff, and Craig Cheek, Portland Diamond Project founder and president.

Wheeler and his office believe that the prospect of luring a Major League Baseball team to the central city could catalyze a sweeping redevelopment vision for a sports and entertainment district that would encompass the Lloyd District, Rose Quarter and Albina neighborhood and potentially spur the creation of thousands of units of new housing….

The negotiations between the city and baseball group mark the most serious discussions between the two sides in the last three years. Yet any future deal remains far from certain and is contingent on a flurry of factors beyond the control of either party.”

The RedTail Golf Course in Beaverton could serve as a backup site for a new MLB ballpark, according to documents reviewed by this newspaper.

Having a site and potentially some deep-pocketed investors will be good to have once MLB decides to move forward with expansion to 32 teams. It’s hard to find anyone within the industry who doesn’t think MLB will move forward on expansion once the Tampa Bay ballpark situation is cleared up and the Oakland to Las Vegas move is on firmer ground, so the issue is when, not if. 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. The good news for Portland regarding the A’s is also good news for any Salt Lake City MLB effort.

Rendering courtesy Portland Diamond Project.

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