Portland Baseball Group announces next step for MLB

Major League Baseball may be headed to a city near you – at least according to the report presented by the Portland Baseball Group (PBG) at their meeting on Wednesday, April 18, at the Governor’s Hotel in downtown Portland.

A short time ago, the baseball group met with officials in Salem to push House Bill 2941, that would allocate $150 million dollars to the development of a new ball park.

Since then the bill has been approved by a committee and on its way to the house floor.

“The most important thing to recognize is that it’s going to happen,” said Randy Vataha from Game Plan LCC., a company that specializes in finding owners and management for sports teams. “HB2941 will be funded by lottery back bonds. They can only be used for economic development. Baseball could arrive in 2005.”

Vataha, who has spoken with MLB commissioner Bud Selig on several occasions, said Selig believes Portland, as the country’s 22nd largest market, is ready for big league baseball.

“We do believe that the commissioner wants to bring MLB to Portland. But I think Selig’s goal is to get the payroll,” Vataha said. “If the state passes this bill, it’s basically $150 million sitting until a team is in place. Lottery funds can only be used for economic development.”

Sports agent Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, CEO of sports-management.com and president of PBG, said he came to Oregon because of his strong passion for MLB.

“We have a whole lot of heroes in this room,” Lashbrook said. “Major League Baseball is going to happen here. I’ve been here for five years but I feel like it’s been forever because of the support I’ve gotten. All I want you to think about is stepping up to the plate. It’s a blessing to be in this community.”

But although PBG officials have big goals they realize their biggest obstacle is the approval by the legislature of the bill.

“If we get through the legislature it’s OK,” said Steve Cantor, president of the Oregon Baseball Coalition. “I only want Major League Baseball that’s done right. We need the right start.”

Sites for an additional baseball park have been discussed, but Cantor feels that, “It’s important to the city we sit un-site neutral.”

However, PBG officials said if they get the bill passed in June, the Portland Beavers’ PGE Park and home of Portland State’s football facility next fall, could be used as an interim facility.

Assuming PGE is used, 30-40 percent of local owners would reportedly be interested, according to Vataha.

“We’re going in the discussion that there won’t be a dome,” Vataha said of Portland’s future baseball park. “The highest attendance dome stadium is in Seattle (Safeco Field). We have a short time between now and then. I’m excited and encouraged but there’s a lot of work at the legislation level.”

Recently, PBG officials conducted research that the success of the Portland market is the largest city that only has one pro sports franchise in the Portland Trail Blazers.

That said, PBG believes that many legislators are only being contacted by the vocal minority opposing the bill because they’re individuals who are uniformed.

“We don’t have time to set up a lengthy campaign,” Cantor explained. “The next step is getting the (HB2941) bill passed. Contacting the legislation is the best thing. Anything you can do to influence legislatures would be helpful.”