BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/New ballpark focus of local team that includes former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett

MLB TO PORTLAND?A viable management group is working toward bringing major league baseball to Portland — and the chances are good it will happen.

That would necessitate construction of a new stadium, which is the group's major focus.

Major league baseball seems to be headed toward expanding from 30 to 32 teams in the near future, and Portland and Montreal are considered as front-runners. It's also possible that a current team or teams — most notably Oakland and Tampa Bay — could relocate in the near future.

The most important piece is that an MLB team have a stadium in which to play in Portland.

A new ballpark probably would cost in the area of $700 million to $850 million. Oregon House Bill 3606, enacted in 2003, would allocate $150 million in funds tied to MLB players' income tax revenue for construction of the park. The remaining funding likely would come from a public/private partnership.

In September, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned Portland as a potential site for a franchise, and said a "team in the West" would be part of any expansion.

The local management group's point man is Mike Barrett, the former television voice of the Trail Blazers.

Barrett, who has been involved with the project for eight months, said he is limited in what he can reveal at this time, including partners in the management group, or identification of a potential ownership group, architectural firm or site possibilities.

"What I can say is I've been incredibly impressed by how this has been handled by this group — smartly and carefully," Barrett said. "Not long after my career with the NBA ended, I was weighing my options — staying in broadcasting or getting completely out. When this opportunity was presented to me with what would be a game-changer for my home state, it was a no-brainer. It's been a wonderful experience."

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