Hello Blogtown readers! I'm Mark, and through the power of hypnosis and positive visualization, I've convinced the Mercury staff to let me be the voice of the Portland Timbers on Blogtown. I'll get around to introducing myself later, but there is news afoot! NEWS! GASP!

Merritt Paulson, owner of the Portland Timbers Football Club and the Portland Beavers Baseball Team held a press conference at PGE park this morning to officially launch Portland's bid for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, to join the league by the 2011 season. He was joined by City Commissioner Randy Leonard, Portland State Athletic Director Torre Chisholm, Chair of the Lents Neighborhood Association Dewey Akers, Lents Little League President Sue Bush, Timbers Army posterboy of the day Tye Ortega, Timbers Coach/General Manager Gavin Wilkinson, and a few season ticket holders and associated interested parties.

All the details after the jump

What Happened? Here's the Quick and the Dirty.:

1. Pretty new websites!
MLS to Portland

Better Beavers Ballpark

It's worth mentioning that they were slick enough to have those sites go live at 8:55am this morning, right before the press conference.

The plan is to build an 8,000 seat baseball park on at SE 92nd and Holgate, surrounded by little league fields. Given the time frame here, this facility could be launching operations around the time that the new Max Green Line is up and running, making transit to and from the park not such a traffic jam.

(image from betterbeaversballpark.com)

PGE park will be renovated for square field sports (Football and, well, football), adding seats along the eastern fence, luxury boxes above the north end and (this is me hoping) REAL GRASS.
(image from mlstoportland.com)

2. Merritt Paulson challenges you to say 'Better Beavers Ballpark' three times fast.

3. Photo ops with cute little Lents Little League players!

4. Randy Leonard showing off a letter signed by all the City Commissioners and Mayor Potter throwing their support behind an MLS franchise in Portland, addressed to MLS Commissioner Don Garber. When pressed during the Q&A, Leonard reminded us that he would prefer to leverage the "full faith and credit" of the City of Portland to finance the Lents Park construction/PGE renovation, instead of paying cash out of the City's coffers.

5. PSU Athletic Director Torre Chisholm is excited about a having a real stadium for Vikings Football. I don't blame him.

6. Starbucks cup traffic jams on the podium! Poor form Randy and Merritt: embrace local latte art!

7. A slickly dressed Dewey Akers from the Lents Neighborhood Association throwing his support behind the stadium project in Lents, though the press release notes that the Lents NA has formed a committee to study the idea, and has not officially endorsed the plan. (For more on this story, check out this recent article from Sarah Mirk.)

8. Sue Bush and Lents Little League are excited to have mentors in the Lents neighborhood.

What didn't happen?
Well, lots of things. First of all, the money issues are far from ironed out; both Paulson and Leonard declined to go into any detail, since negotiations are ongoing. I'm guessing that these things won't get tackled until Mayor Potter rides off into the sunset and the Era of Adams begins. The Timbers MLS expansion application is due October 15th, but final financing details need not be complete by then.

Fun Facts:
1. Landing an MLS franchise is no sure thing. Montreal, Vancouver (Canada), St. Louis, Miami, New York City (well, Queens) and San Diego all have ownership groups of varying seriousness vying to join the league. If the successful Seattle expansion taught us anything, fan support and local support don't seem to matter as much as they should. To quote Snoop quoting Bill Munny, "Deserve ain't got nothin' to do with it."

2. Merritt Paulson's father signs our money.

3. For a more detailed report, the guy sitting next to me at the conference was Bob from the Timbers Offside, who live-blogged the event. Bob is the Don Corleone of Timbers Bloggers, so here's hoping I don't turn out like Fredo. He's posted some other thoughts about the Press conference, and a a list of other media outlets covering the event here

4. There are five games left in the 2008 Timbers campaign, but only two at home:
- This Thursday, 9/4, at 7pm against Miami FC (the 'Blues'),
- Next Thursday, the date that cannot be mentioned near Rudy Giuliani, at 7pm against Charleston (the 'Battery').

Both matches are 'Miller Lite Thursdays', which are named after the beer, not Matthew McConaughey's nephew. This means that cheap beer floweth until the 70th minute.

This season has been tough on the Timbers, and a playoff appearance is no sure thing. The Timbers must win this Thursday to have any real chance of controlling their own destiny, so come out and cheer on our boys!

Alternately, enjoy the flamewar about city funding that should commence shortly in the comments.

See you at the Piggie!