BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/After 18 months of work behind the scenes, management group bids on land in city for baseball stadium, surrounding development

The continuing bid to bring major league baseball to Portland has taken another important step forward.

A local management group has made formal offers to buy two large parcels of land in the city for the purpose of building a 32,000-seat stadium and large-scale mixed development. The stadium would be home to a major league team.

One potential site is where the former Esco Corporation plant was located at Northwest 25th Avenue and Vaughn Street, with about 25 acres of property.

The other site is the Portland Public Schools' Blanchard Education Services Center, located north of Northeast Broadway near Moda Center. The PPS piece of land is about 19 acres.

There is a third possible site, in the suburban Portland area, on which the group has not yet made an offer.

Partners of the management group, called Portland Diamond Project, are retired Nike vice president Craig Cheek, former Oregon state senator Jason Atkinson and ex-Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett. Cheek serves as president, Atkinson is strategic business director and Barrett is spokesperson. John McIsaac is the group's public relations director. Portland native Dale Murphy, the former major league outfielder, has served as an advisor but would like to become more involved with the group.

PDP has retained Populous Architects out of Kansas City, which has designed more than 20 major league parks, to handle design responsibilities in partnership with Portland firm TVA Architects.

The PDP partners, who have been working for about 18 months on the project, have lined up a consortium of local and national ownership. Sources would not reveal who the owners are.

The stadium project, which would include a retractable roof, is expected to cost at least $1 billion, perhaps more.

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 remainder of financing would come through a public/private partnership, but indications are the private side would cover a large percentage of the cost.

"The management team does not intend to ask the city or the legislature to authorize any new public programs to fund the ballpark," PDP said in a Wednesday press release.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said last September that Portland is on the list of potential expansion cities. The major leagues have 30 teams and would like to increase that to 32, with one Eastern team and one in the West.

But Manfred said he would like to shore up unstable stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay before moving ahead with expansion. There is the possibility that both the A's and Rays will relocate in another city. PDP partners are prepared for both possibilities.

A lobbyist met in January with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who they say is on board with the idea of bringing major league baseball to the city.

According to its press release, PDP commissioned an in-depth economic study, which indicated an urban ballpark would create 800 construction jobs and 4,500 new permanent jobs in the city, with an economic impact of nearly $10 billion over 30 years.

"The social, economic and cultural impacts of having an MLB team here are overwhelmingly positive," Barrett said in the release.

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