If baseball comes to town É
Group wants city served, not just 'a rich owner and 25 rich players'
Several Portland baseball backers want to ensure that the city's neighborhoods and schools get to share in any major-league bounty.
To that end, an arm of the Portland Baseball Group has developed a wish list that contains several distinctively Portland touches.
Ideas under consideration by the group's Community Development Committee include pushing for a 'green,' or environmentally friendly, stadium; guaranteeing that a portion of stadium construction contracts go toward minority contractors; and requesting that Portland baseball fans own, in microscopic shares, 1 percent of the team.
'The committee agrees that we don't want to just build a ballpark for a rich owner and 25 rich players,' said Carl Flipper, a longtime North-Northeast Portland neighborhood activist and co-chairman of the community development group. 'This goes along the lines of community participation for which we are nationally known.'
The other co-chairman, John Knowles, an attorney for the Portland-based law firm of Abbott, Davis, Rothwell, Mullin & Earle, put it another way: 'Since we're here, we figure why not dream a little bit?'
Those dreams could provide next-step fodder if Portland successfully lures the Montreal Expos. The city is considered a top candidate for the Expos' impending relocation.
As such, Flipper and Knowles want the team to address stadium-related displacement issues, become involved with low-income communities and communities of color and help revitalize inner-city neighborhoods.
The committee unveiled some of its wish-list items as the Oregon Stadium Campaign, led by former Indiana Pacers General Manager David Kahn, develops a stadium-financing model.
Kahn and Mayor Vera Katz, an avid big-league baseball supporter, will travel to New York on Tuesday to meet with league officials. The meeting, said Dave Logsdon, the city's spectator facilities manager, will introduce Portland baseball backers to the league's relocation decision-makers.
Kahn will make a formal presentation to league officials in late February or early March. Portland and two Washington, D.C., area sites are considered the top candidates for relocation of the Major League Baseball-owned Expos. Other candidates include Charlotte, N.C., northern New Jersey and San Antonio.
Logsdon said Katz's office hopes to finance the trip with private funds.
As the group collects information in New York, the Community Development Committee will continue to develop various 'best practices' proposals culled from other big-league cities and professional sports franchises.
Knowles said a Portland team could co-opt such ideas as a minority-contracting program employed by baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates, the low-income housing rehabilitation programs administered by several National Football League teams and the statewide school sports-facilities refurbishing projects offered by baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks and Colo-rado Rockies.
'That could help out schools by freeing up money to spend on academic activities,' Knowles said. 'Helping education is one of our key priorities.'
Many of the community group's ideas, in baseball terms, effectively put the swing before the pitch. Yet its ideas also could prove to Major League Baseball decision makers that Portland backers have a solid set of long-range plans.
'It's important that the team become a community asset, not just a corporate asset,' Kahn said.
'But we need to be careful. We have so much to do on the meat and potatoes part of this, and we can't lose sight of that.'
Kahn said the baseball drive has gathered more support since several media outlets began reporting on it heavily two weeks ago.