Plans to build a new ballpark for the Portland Beavers progressed Wednesday after the City Council approved a plan to lure a Major League Soccer team.
City commissioner Dan Saltzman ended a six-hour stalemate Wednesday by casting the tiebreaking vote in support of the $89 million proposal that would bring an MLS team to PGE Park, the facility the Beavers share with a United Soccer Leagues team, and build a new stadium for the Pacific Coast League franchise.
The new ballpark would be located in the Rose Quarter and owned by the city, while PGE Park would remain under municipal ownership. Both teams would pay rent.
The original plan called for $15 million of urban renewal funds to be used to cover renovation costs at PGE Park as well as construction of the new park. But Saltzman insisted those funds be removed from the proposal before agreeing to vote for it.
Beavers owner Merritt Paulson, who also would own Portland's MLS entry, told MLB.com, "I feel really positive. This was a big win."
But he cautioned, "We've got to execute on this deal. The city's got to fill the gap. I'm confident [the city] will come up [with the $15 million]. There are already some good ideas on the table."
City commissioner Randy Leonard, the self-professed "ring leader" of the movement to attract an MLS expansion team and build the Beavers a new home, also does not consider Saltzman's provision to be a roadblock.
"I'm not concerned. I'm confident that we're going to fill [the gap]," he said.
Of Wednesday's marathon council meeting, Leonard said, "Not only did it go well, but we are now going to move forward with the Major League Soccer deal and are then going to go ahead with the new stadium.
"We're going to go right into the design phase of the [Beavers' stadium] planning now."
The proposed stadium would have a seating capacity of approximately 9,000, providing a significantly more intimate atmosphere than PGE Park, which holds nearly 20,000 for baseball games. That's one of many perks Beavers fans would enjoy in the new facility, supporters argue.
"A facility built in the Rose Quarter with a capacity of 9,000 would create a venue where the Beavers could be extremely successful," Leonard said. "I think it's wonderful that there will be a view of the Portland skyline."
"We have an absolutely terrific location for a ballpark," Paulson added. "It includes views of the skyline. We'll have a view overlooking the river from the third base line. This will really be an iconic ballpark"
Although many of the specifics of the stadium design have yet to be determined, supporters see an opportunity to bring something special to the city.
"This is a chance to build an intimate ballpark in Portland that provides the kind of experience that fans deserve," Paulson said. "This is a great baseball market. A state-of-the-art ballpark will ensure the success of this team and ensure the quality of the fan experience here for a long time."