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Baseball is a hit in Portland

Throughout the five-year campaign to bring major league baseball to Oregon, there often has been skepticism about whether a team might actually move to Portland. With the city now identified as a final candidate for the relocation of the Montreal Expos, the question of whether Portland is a serious contender has been answered unmistakably.Ê

We now are faced with a more pertinent question:ÊWould big league baseball in Oregon be successful?

By every conceivable measurement that can be applied to an area without a major league team, the Portland area has exceeded even the loftiest expectations for demonstrating an affinity for major league baseball.

• In 2001, the Portland TV market generated a stunning 4.3 cable TV rating for Seattle Mariners games, topping the mark of 19 major league cities for their own teams.ÊThe next year, the Portland region produced a 4.5 rating Ñ this in a season when the Mariners failed to make the playoffs.

• Portland recorded the seventh-best TV rating in the nation for the 2002 World Series, the third-best mark excluding those cities with a regional interest.ÊPortland's 22.5 rating for Game 7 between the Angels and the Giants doubled the rating of the Washington, D.C., market, as 240,000 area households tuned in for the game.Ê

According to ESPN.com's recent SportsNation survey, Portland has the highest level of fans following the major leagues (72 percent) and more fans who name baseball as their favorite sport than any city without a major league team.

This overflowing passion for baseball exists in the most underserved sports market in the nation.ÊThe SportsBusiness Journal recently ranked Portland the third most appealing market in the country for a new franchise.ÊPortland is the largest metro area in the nation without a major league franchise, with a population and corporate base (53 businesses with over $100 million in 2001 revenues) equivalent to the Denver area when it acquired its fourth professional sports franchise.

Based on the above information and an outpouring of public and corporate support for our campaign, we have no doubt that Oregonians will offer long-standing support for a major league franchise.ÊThis backing, combined with baseball's newly stabilized economic structure, will provide the new franchise with every opportunity to field a competitive team on a long-term basis.

While Oregonians root for our new club to win a World Series, the state will be the recipient of a major tourist attraction, thousands of new construction jobs and a myriad of new public revenues.ÊIt is time to capitalize on this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Drew Mahalic is chief executive officer of the Oregon Sports Authority and lives in Southwest Portland. He played football for five years in the NFL and is the only NFL player to graduate from Harvard Law School.