Stop dithering, build stadium


With a baseball stadium no longer in the cards for Portland's Rose Quarter, the Lents neighborhood is a worthy second choice.

But the real question regarding Portland's desire to have more than one major league sport in town doesn't revolve around the location of a stadium. Rather, it's a matter of robust leadership.

Unfortunately, the proposal to build a minor-league baseball stadium in the Lents area is stalled at City Hall with the mayor and one commissioner in favor, two commissioners against and city Commissioner Dan Saltzman in the middle awaiting further information. This new, 6,500-seat arena is needed so that PGE Park can be refurbished specifically for Major League Soccer.

Lents wasn't the council's first choice for a baseball stadium. The centrally located Rose Quarter has many advantages that Lents cannot fully match. But as a fallback, Lents has its assets, including proximity to Interstate 205 and direct access to the MAX light rail line that will open in September.

A baseball stadium, which would be home to the Triple-A Portland Beavers, can be quite beneficial to the somewhat depressed Lents neighborhood. An urban renewal district launched in 1998 hasn't yet transformed the community. A $48 million baseball stadium will require funding from that urban renewal district, but we believe the stadium also will spur further investment in the neighborhood.

A stadium may not be what all members of the area's urban renewal advisory committee had in mind. However, we urge those citizens to consider the advantages. A stadium can host a variety of activities, draw more visitors into Lents and strengthen community identity.

The Lents stadium plan wouldn't be advancing, of course, if it weren't for the opportunity to bring Major League Soccer to Portland. This city deserves another big league team besides the Trail Blazers, and that's why City Hall must show more assertive leadership - especially after it allowed the proposal for a Rose Quarter stadium to fall apart.

Saltzman should get his questions answered immediately. He then should join Leonard and Adams in sealing the Major League Soccer deal with team owner Merritt Paulsen by agreeing to build the baseball stadium in Lents. The alternative is to have a second stadium plan disintegrate - and thereby make it obvious that Portland is incapable of thinking beyond the minor leagues.