Tomorrow afternoon, the Portland Beavers will play their final game at PGE Park. Given that this is also the last home game the Beavers will ever play at PGE Park, we’ve got some special things planned to commemorate the occasion – I hope everyone will come out and join us.
Much has been said and written the past few months about Beavers baseball in Portland; its past and its future. When I purchased the team in 2007 I believed Portland was a baseball city that enjoyed a rich baseball history. I still believe that today. From the outset, my goal was to not only improve the success of the team but to enhance the fan and community experience as well. And while PGE Park has a rich civic and sports history, it simply has never been a real ballpark. It’s far too big and its multi-purpose design prevents the kind of close-to-the-action intimacy so essential to the baseball experience – especially minor league baseball. Ballparks do make a difference…in Albuquerque, for example, attendance doubled after Triple-A returned to the city in a new facility following its departure three years earlier (ironically, when it moved to Portland in 2000).
So, with early encouragement from city officials, we advanced a win-win plan for Portland. Renovate PGE Park and bring Major League Soccer to Portland, and build a new and better home for Beavers baseball in the city. Both projects would be public-private partnerships; both would protect taxpayers from risk through significant cash investments and personal financial guarantees from my family; and both would enhance the culture and economy of Portland. We advanced two solid stadium/financing proposals. First, for an intimate ballpark to replace Memorial Coliseum and, after city officials withdrew their initial support for that plan, a second for a ballpark in Southeast Portland at Lents Park. Unfortunately, both Portland plans died due to the combination of opposition from interest groups and lack of political support at City Hall.
After those efforts fell short, we were approached by city officials from Beaverton to bring the Beavers to Beaverton. Once again, we negotiated a public-private stadium financing plan, but, sadly those plans also failed to generate enough support among Beaverton city residents and elected officials.
Losing Beavers baseball in Portland is a tremendous personal and professional disappointment for me. More important, it’s a loss for our many loyal fans and a loss for the city. My biggest regret is my failure to better mobilize baseball fans as a political force to keep Beavers baseball in Portland. Just as institutions like the symphony and opera enrich the culture and identity of a city – so do professional sporting events. The shared experience of a ballpark outing with family or friends on a beautiful Oregon summer evening creates memories of a lifetime and strengthens the social fabric of our community.
Tomorrow, Beavers baseball comes to an end at PGE Park. But, like the ever hopeful and optimistic Cubs fan that I am, I predict baseball will return to Portland or the Portland area one day. You can count me as someone willing to help make it happen. But to succeed, it will require organized and enthusiastic fans making their voices heard and visionary local and state political champions unwavering in the face of inevitable vocal opposition.