The Mercury editorial team headed out to a Beavers game at PGE Park last night, working its way through a combined 23 beers and, at one point, watching a "musical beach towel" contest that made everyone feel a little sadder. Within the next year, Portland may take be viewing its Beavers and musical beach towel games on the opposite side of town -- all the talk in Lents is about the possibility of building a new 8,000 seat baseball stadium where Charles Walker Stadium currently sits.
Henry Merritt Paulson III, the guy who owns both the Timbers and the Beavers, is looking to buy and bring a Major League soccer team to Portland. If he wins the soccer contact, the team would play in PGE Park. But according to Dan Lavey, representative of Gallatin Public Affairs, a consulting firm working for Paulson, having Major League soccer in the park would mean booting the Beavers elsewhere and investing in an estimated $35 million in renovations. There would need to be public funding for that upgrade, says Lavey, as well as funding for the construction of a new place for the Beavers to play.
If the money comes through, the top choice for a Beavers stadium is Lents Park on 92nd and Holgate, since it's close to a new MAX line. The Lents listserve has been lighting up this week with debate over the potential stadium, which could be a huge boost to the area's economy. The average Beavers game this year has brought in 5,408 people and Lents neighbors are dreaming of the restaurants, bars and shops which could open up in the area. Lents is part of an urban renewal area, which means the City is already paying out to try and create jobs in the neighborhood - a stadium built with some public dollars could effectively be the same idea.
"The challenge is obviously parking," says Dewey Akers, co-chair of the Lents Neighborhood Association. Despite the economic boost of the stadium, neighbors are reluctant to see any of their green space turned into parking lot.
The future parking lot of baseball fans?
Anyway, the whole deal hinges on whether Portland will acquire a Major League soccer team, which depends in some part on whether it'll be game for shelling out for stadium upgrades. "It's a competition and one of the factors will be the community support for the stadium," said Lavey. But Portlanders should support the renovation, he said, since "Portland is Soccer City U.S.A. The Timbers have been very successful here." I asked the Mercury's sports correspondent, Ezra Ace Caraeff, whether Portland is, in his opinion, Soccer City U.S.A. "No, absolutely not," he scoffed, "I don't know if there is a Soccer City U.S.A. Maybe Los Angeles?" Soccer City U.S.A. turns out to be the name of the Timbers' website.