By Edith Noriega
The Portland Diamond Project’s efforts to bring Major League Baseball to Oregon’s largest city took one giant leap on Thursday when an agreement was reached to develop the Port of Portland’s 45-acre Terminal 2 property, according to a press release from PDP president Craig Cheek.
“We believe this has the potential to be a transformative landmark project for this city,” Cheek said. “Building an iconic, state-of-the-art ballpark along the Willamette River will catalyze economic development and capture great views of both urban scale of the city and regional character of the Pacific Northwest.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced late last year that Portland “would be on a list” of potential expansion cities for the league, and only months later, PDP emerged.
In April, the organization comprised of Cheek, former NBA Trail Blazers broadcaster and managing partner Mike Barrett and former Oregon State Senator Jason Atkinson took initiative to set their city apart from other potential cities that included Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal and Las Vegas, just to name a few.
But for some Oregonians, pushing to relocate or expand MLB might not come as a shock. In 2003, supporters first tried to relocate the Montreal Expos to Portland, but that effort ultimately fell through.
Fifteen years later, John McIsaac, communication strategist for PDP, told Somos Sports “the plans have been overwhelmingly positive.”
“The road has been bumpy all along,” McIsaac said. “But we knew it would be going in. It’s less bumpy than we thought it was going to be, but it’s a right time for the city and the general public is very in favor with us.”
In April, organizers “put in offers on two potential sites … that would include up to 8,000 new apartments, roughly half of which would be affordable housing,” according to an article in the Portland Business Journal.
One of those potential sites, owned by Portland Public Schools, became prime real estate because of its location near downtown and easy transportation access.
PDP made an offer of $80 million, but according to FOX 12 Oregon as of November they retracted that offer.
Meanwhile, PDP has been gathering big name support for its campaign. The signing of some high profile names to the team has played a role in helping propel it toward reaching the goal.
Among the first were Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Ciara Wilson as owners/investors and current big-leaguer Darwin Barney, a native of nearby Beaverton, as baseball consultant and investor.
In an email, Barney said he plans to create a vision for baseball.
“To lay a groundwork for what life will be like everyday for our players when that time comes,” Barney said. “So that we can hit the ground running when it’s go time, being a premier destination for young players, and especially free agents alike looking for a new home.”
With a potential stadium site in place and a natural rival less than three hours’ drivthe north in the Seattle Mariners, it’s a question of costs for building the infrastructure, and whether PDP will seek help from the city or rely solely on investors.
“We estimate that the team and the ballpark together would probably be $2 billion approximately,” McIsaac said. “I can’t tell you where we are with the finances, but I can tell you that we are very actively engaged in that right now.”
According to a Portland Business Journal article, Cheek said the $2 billion project is more complex with so many pieces playing a specific role.
“There is a stadium piece, a franchise (fee) piece, a land piece,” Cheek said. “When we are ready to share details, you’ll see how it comes together, but it’s not one single person that we would be comfortable giving that name.”
“It’s multifaceted in the way in which the entire enterprise gets put together, so those are the worlds that we live in – and there may be different investors for different parts of it,” he added.
The campaign is picking up steam with a strong social media presence, in the meantime. PDP is all over the Portland metro area at different events, and fans from around the country have shared photos of themselves wearing the team’s T-shirt and cap at various major-league games and other places.
Pro sports in town is thriving, with the Blazers off to another good start and Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers headed to the MLS Cup final next week in search of their second league championship.
The Timbers are also in the midst of a stadium expansion. They play at the site where minor-league baseball in the city was played for decades.