July 23rd, 2009 | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Sports, City Hall

Portland City Council OK's Remodel of PGE Park For Major League Soccer

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The $31 million revamp of PGE Park, which will allow Major League Soccer to begin play there in 2011 and force the Portland Beavers to find a new baseball home, was approved Thursday by the City Council.

The vote on the resolution (PDF) authorizing the city's term sheet (or as Mayor Sam Adams put it, the "basic concepts and shape" of the deal with more definitive details to come) with Merritt Paulson, owner of the Beavers and the MLS franchise-to-be, was 4-1.

Commissioner Nick Fish, who voted against the original version of the deal in March, said he voted yes for this version because of many improvements that include no use of urban renewal funds, reduced costs and a $1 million cap for the city on renovation cost overruns.

"There's a lot more work to be done on this deal but we are moving forward," said Adams.

"Merritt is an asset to this city," said Commissioner Randy Leonard, who also lauded Adams' leadership in closing this deal.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted no on the deal in March and did so again today on the latest version.

"On the surface, there's much to like about the current agreement," said Fritz. "[But] the proposal just doesn't pencil out."

She raised concerns before voting no about the deal's use of zero-coupon bonds, back-loading debt payments which she likened to a "second mortgage on existing debt." A fan of University of Oregon football, Fritz also asked multiple questions during the council discussion about the latest version of the deal. Among her worries is what happens if MLS goes bust (city chief administrative officer Ken Rust said the city in that instance will either have already received its payments from Paulson or will have those payments guaranteed, and have an upgraded configuration for soccer/football). She also asked about gender equity for stadium bathrooms (yes) and why there's a need for a sole-source development agreement.

A couple other elements that surfaced in the council discussion: the goal is to make the stadium LEED-certified to a silver standard and there's so-called aspirational language leaving open the prospect of considering a future parking facility near the stadium.

As for the Beavers and their fans, the baseball team's days in Portland look numbered now that soccer is going forward with no guarantee for baseball's fate inside city limits. The latest prospect in their search for a new home is Beaverton.
 
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