Its time to bring baseball home
We're so close now. We've rounded third, and we're heading for home.
It was such a long shot in the beginning. When I first started writing about bringing big-league baseball to Portland, people asked if I'd been out in the sun too long. They wanted me to take a saliva test. Or an IQ test.
That was back in the mid-1990s. Back when a small group of Portlanders had the courage to dream along with me of those magic Sunday afternoons in the bleachers with our families.
And now, major league baseball is just a hook slide away.
The people working behind the scenes have been busy. They need to be busy for just a little bit longer. The financing package for a Portland ballpark is almost finished.
'We're 80 percent there,' says David Kahn, the man heading up the coalition to bring major league baseball to Portland. 'But the last 20 percent of it, as it usually is, is the hardest to figure out.
'We have to build a consensus across a broad array of the community, starting with our elected officials. We need to finish the financial plan and start paring down the number of sites.'
Once the stadium-financing package is complete, an owner for the prospective team will surface. Kahn is certain of that.
'The financial plan will bring the owner, and not the other way around,' Kahn says. 'I was struck by the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers are about to be purchased by a real estate developer from Boston. There are plenty of wealthy folks in Los Angeles who have the wherewithal to purchase a baseball team.
'It's a false premise to think the owner must be local. It's not necessary that an Oregonian be the lead investor.'
It's time to get the principals to the table. Kahn is innovative and experienced. But he can't sign deals on behalf of the city with hoteliers and restaurateurs. He can't arbitrarily designate a site.
'I understand the city is very, very busy with a lot of legitimate projects, and on certain days this doesn't seem like the highest priority, but we will not be able to finish this unless there's an understanding we need their active participation,' Kahn says.
Bad weather and holidays slowed the process. The situation in PGE Park has slowed it, too. But bringing major league baseball to Portland is a legitimate way out of that Portland Family Entertainment mess.
Kahn still believes the work can be done by spring. If so, Portland has a splendid chance of grabbing either the Montreal Expos or another team wishing to move into a new ballpark. No other city has stadium financing this far along, and the first one to come up with a finished plan is going to have a big lead.
'We're at the moment of truth,' Kahn says. 'The time is now. We just need to prioritize this and give it the attention it deserves. We can make it happen.
'We're right there on the brink.'
It's time to put on the finishing touches. Too many people have worked too long for this not to succeed.