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Baseball fans await big league decisions

Portland still has two lingering baseball questions: Who will own the Portland Beavers, and will Major League Baseball bite on Portland's stadium financing plan, expected to be completed by mid-May, and award the city the Montreal Expos by the All-Star break?

The Beavers open April 8 in Las Vegas. 'They're coming,' Beaver executive Jack Cain says.

The Pacific Coast League put Cain in charge of the team in late January while the league, the Beavers' lenders and any prospective buyers hash out an agreement on who should own and operate the team. The past owner, Portland Family Entertainment, lost an estimated -$25 million since its inception in 2000; PFE has been hamstrung by expenses, primarily the $2.8 million debt payment and $800,000 lease payment for PGE Park, and owes the city about $2 million in back rent. The city has evicted former PFE President Mark Schuster from PGE Park.

Cain says most ticket holders and sponsors are holding off spending money until the ownership issue is resolved, and he says PFE's primary lender, the New York-based teachers credit union TIAA-CREF, has severely restricted spending.

The educated guess: The PCL takes over and gets a reduced lease payment (about $500,000), and Cain operates the team.

Meanwhile, David Kahn, who is heading the Oregon Baseball Campaign, has met with government officials, Portland Mayor Vera Katz and business leaders to continue to work on the city's major league stadium financing plan and ballpark location.

Last week, Katz told the Portland Business Alliance that attracting a big league team is a priority for her.

Kahn describes the financing plan as 'fluid,' meaning many variations have been discussed. The core of the plan could end up being a hotel-motel tax and business district tax, although Kahn says backers have looked into how the ballpark could attract federal urban renewal funds.

Kahn says that while 80 percent of the financing plan has been completed, he says 'the last 20 percent is the most politically challenging.'