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Milwaukie baseball idea is subject of multiple meetings

by: Illustration by Ankrom Moisan The proposed baseball facility is depicted overlaid on the current parking lot.

According to City of Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson, he and their City Council believe that professional baseball is on the 'comeback' - and their town would be a great place to locate a short-season, single-A team - beside S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard and the new light-rail line, just south of Ochoco Street and Sellwood.

The new stadium, located on the west edge of the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek neighborhood, and only a couple of city blocks south of the City/County line, has been the subject of numerous 'listening post' sessions put on by Lake Oswego-based Innovative Campaign Strategies (ICS) - a firm paid by the City of Milwaukie for providing communications and outreach work.

'The City Council has tasked us to create public involvement opportunities,' ICS President Jon Isaacs told THE BEE. 'So far, we've held about 25 public meetings, large and small, with community groups. And set up a 'town hall meeting' on Facebook.'

One meeting was held on October 27 at Ardenwald Elementary School. And what may have been one of their best-attended forums took place on November 17 at Linwood Elementary School.

At the latter meeting, we found the participants civil and courteous as they presented their point of view before an audience of nearly 70.

Those in favor of the project spoke about the potential for economic development in Milwaukie. They said how the team and stadium would bring in jobs - for construction, and later for operating the facility during the season. Proponents also said that the stadium and entertainment center would give Milwaukie an attraction that would draw people in from all over the region.

Those speaking against the stadium said they'd prefer money dedicated to this project would go to roads and highways, and bolstering education. Others not in favor of the stadium said they 'seriously doubted' that the kind of revenue a minor league stadium and team would actually generate would be as significant as advocates insisted.

And, opponents wondered aloud whether most of these new jobs would be of the 'part-time, $10-an-hour' variety. Still others expressed concern about the potential for noise and light pollution centering on the stadium.

'Tom' from Ardenwald (participants didn't use last names) said, although he'd probably see the lights and hear the sound from the stadium, he's a 'total supporter'. He added, 'Milwaukie is a diamond in the rough. I'd be disappointed if we don't make this happen. It will pencil out, and it will be successful.'

On the other hand, 'John', a resident who lives on S.E. Roswell Street, said that, unlike the train that provides 'white noise' - 'Voices … [would] be a lot more disturbing. We keep hearing about revenue it will bring into Milwaukie. But, the [ball players] won't stay in town - they won't spend any money here. How will we gain from that?'

A full report of all the outreach sessions will be presented to the Milwaukie City Council on January 3, Isaacs said.

'Several of those who commented,' Isaacs added after the event, 'be they positive, negative, or neutral - thanked the City Council for the 'listening lounge' sessions, and expressed appreciation for giving them ample opportunity to give their perspective.'