Beavers move requires answers
Who's the loser if the Portland Beavers baseball team moves to Beaverton? Certainly not Portland. It escapes the embarrassment of the City Council not being able to agree on an alternative stadium site for the Beavers, who are being forced to move by 2011 so that PGE Park can be converted into a stadium for a new Major League Soccer franchise.
Beaverton won't lose either - but only if it structures a deal with Beavers owner Merritt Paulson that protects taxpayers from risk and from having to foot a substantial portion of the estimated $45 million cost to build a 6,000- to 7,000-seat stadium.
The region, however, will win if the Beavers stay in the metro area. Baseball fans from Clackamas County, Gresham, Forest Grove or Wilsonville can get to Beaverton just as easily as they could get to PGE Park or other passed-over locations - including the old Memorial Coliseum or Lents Park in Southeast Portland.
Where will it be, and at what cost?
But success, in this case, is not about hope. In our mind, the notion of bringing Beaver baseball to Beaverton remains dogged with undefined specifics that require immediate answers and extensive public engagement. The concept needs more than the laudatory support granted Tuesday by the Oregon Sports Authority, which launched a 'Bring the Beavers to Beaverton' campaign and created a 39-person citizen advisory committee to do just that.
A public relations campaign isn't the only thing that's necessary. What's also needed is specific information about financing, possible stadium locations, transportation planning and land-use planning.
Also required are details about who would build, operate and share the stadium with the privately held Beavers team. Beaverton Mayor Dennis Doyle still must explain to his citizens why spending millions on baseball is valuable.
Beaverton is not alone. It can ask for information and help from the cities of Portland, Salem, Eugene and Reno, all of which have experience in minor league sports matters.
Portland, for one, should rush to help. After all, Beaverton may spare the Rose City the cost of being home to the Beavers and the ridicule of losing a long-term sports team to another state.
Here are some of the issues yet to be resolved:
• Location: Define the many sites being considered, including the oft-mentioned old Westgate Theatre site, or rumored sites, such as land north of Canyon Road and west of Highway 217, or the old Greenwood Inn.
• Land acquisition methods: Is the city of Beaverton committed to buy property only from a willing seller, or would it use condemnation powers to acquire land?
• Construction costs: Define the expense, including city staff time, to design, engineer and build the stadium.
• Ownership interests: What share does the city of Beaverton expect to own compared with Paulson? How much would each have to pay to make a stadium deal happen? If the Beavers franchise fails, what happens to the stadium?
• Funding: How will Beaverton pay its share of the stadium and the infrastructure costs required by a ballpark?
• Public say: We think Beaverton voters should decide how up to $45 million in taxpayer dollars will be spent.
nRegional participation: If retaining the Beavers is a plus for the Portland area, how can the region spread the investment burden beyond Beaverton taxpayers?
Given the choice, we would rather not lose the Beavers. For about a century, the minor league baseball team consistently has brought pride, tradition and clean fun to the city. However, any decision to move the team to Beaverton must not be based on nostalgia, but judged precisely and with sufficient public safeguards.