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Backers plan major league pitch

For Portland baseball proponents, D-Day is less than one month away.

Backers of a Rose City team will travel to Phoenix on March 20 to pitch the city's suitability as a major league baseball site. David Kahn, who heads the Oregon Stadium Campaign, will lead the group.

Until then, Kahn plans to analyze specific stadium proposals with HOK, the Kansas City, Mo.-based design firm that's crunching Portland site specifics.

'We're taking things to the next level of analysis,' Kahn said. 'Right now, it's mostly just looking at pretty pictures.'

Major League Baseball wants to find a home for the Montreal Expos, which the league owns, in time for the 2004 season. Portland; Washington, D.C.; and Northern Virginia are considered the front-runners to land the team.

Kahn said he hasn't studied a stadium funding concept offered last week by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The idea would, in effect, trade stadium financing money for the tribe's right to construct a casino in Portland.

'It's a very preliminary idea,' Kahn said. 'I think it'll be explored, but until that exploration occurs, it's impossible to pass any judgment on it.'

One possible glitch with the proposal is that Major League Baseball tends to shy away from any links to gambling. Former superstar Pete Rose has been banned from having connections with the game since 1989 for allegedly placing bets on games; in the mid-1980s, Hall-of-Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were temporarily banned from representing the sport because they served stints as casino greeters.

Kahn also plans to study PGE Park's viability as a temporary big-league facility. Attendees at a Goose Hollow Foothills Association meeting Thursday warmly received a presentation by Kahn and HOK principal Bob Watson.

'I think PGE Park is a marvelous venue,' Kahn said. 'I think it could be a real gem.'

Ñ Andy Giegerich