Scott Keith
Freelance Writer

Baseball in Portland

baseball pictureMetro Area Would Benefit From Major League Baseball Franchise

by Scott Keith

Last September, breaking news on the sports wires rocked the Portland region into a silence so stunning you could hear a pin drop on a slice of gelatin. Top NBA draft pick Greg Oden would miss the upcoming Trailblazer season because of microfracture surgery on his right knee. The shock gradually subsided and the Blazers went about business. They missed the playoffs but finished a respectable 41-41, complete with an amazing early-season, 13-game win streak that grabbed national headlines.

But last September’s bizarre turn of events reminds me how vulnerable we are, living in a region with only one major league sports franchise. The Blazers are a vital part of Portland’s identity. The latest Blazer game is the focus of discussion at office water coolers everywhere. Fans follow the season closely, hoping for a return visit to the NBA Finals.

When the season finally ends, the Willamette Valley plunges into a sort of summer boredom. Not a lot to get excited about. It’s way too early for college or pro football. What’s a fan to do? This region needs another major league team.

My choice would be Major League Baseball. It seems every few years Portland is mentioned as a potential home for an existing franchise. Remember the almost Portland Expos? Just when big-time baseball in Portland becomes a hot topic in the media, the subject fades away for what seems like an endless period of time.

I am not an expert on the planning and funding of new baseball stadiums, but I have a hunch that if we could land an existing or expansion franchise, life in this metropolitan region would take a dramatic and enjoyable turn for the better.

Does Portland have the population to support Major League Baseball? Just Google United States population rankings. Note how many cities smaller than Portland have more than one big-league franchise. Then consider that our metro population is expected to expand by hundreds of thousands in the next several decades. Enough said.

Would a new stadium be an eyesore? With some creative planning, a stadium could probably fit comfortably in any number of locations, perhaps in Washington County, while preserving the integrity of the surrounding neighborhood.

Would baseball work in an area rich with outdoor activities? No doubt Oregon has a lot to offer outdoors, but imagine sitting in a beautiful major league stadium on a hot summer evening as the Red Sox-Portland game goes into extra innings.

The economic impact would be dramatic. Restaurants and sports bars in the stadium area would be packed. Imagine the surge in hotel-motel business when Portland plays a weekend series against the Dodgers, Red Sox or Mariners.

Overnight, the nation would start looking at our metro region. Businesses might consider relocating to a locale with a strong NBA history and a brand new summertime sports attraction. Look for an increase in regional and national conventions.

This is a team that would represent Oregon, not just Portland. Just as there are the Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, our new team could go by the name Oregon.

These are simply my thoughts. This is a subject that can and should be debated with vigor. I just hope we can keep the dialogue going.

This opinion piece appeared in the May 22, 2008 Issue of The Tigard (Oregon) Times Newspaper

 Picture by Michael Ejercito


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