April 9th, 2009 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Sports, City Hall, Business

What Toronto Learned about MLS that Portland Hasn't?

Mayor Sam Adams is moving fast on plans to tear down Memorial Coliseum and start construction on a new minor-league baseball stadium for Merritt Paulson in the Rose Quarter. At the same time, city leaders and Paulson are trying to finalize Paulson's other plans -- to rebuild PGE Park for his new Major League Soccer team.

During a two-day planning process convened by the mayor earlier this week to find a way to fit a new baseball stadium in the Rose Quarter, a few business leaders from around the Rose Quarter told WW they felt the planning process was moving too quickly. They also worried aloud about the implications of letting Paulson's accelerated timeline dictate redevelopment of the Rose Quarter.

In 2005, folks in Toronto -- the eventual home of the first non-U.S. team in MLS -- appear to have been feeling similarly rushed.

"Promoters of professional soccer have gone from merely holding out their hands to putting a gun in them," wrote Dave Perkins, a sports columnist with the Toronto Star on Oct. 13, 2005. "Imagine this: Toronto taxpayers are being blackmailed in a pro soccer shakedown. We're getting a deadline to provide a brand new stadium for a business that has gone broke in this town in its many previous attempts. This is insane."

A summary of the article is here.

But here's another choice excerpt, which might interest Portlanders concerned about the $88.8 million deal proposed for PGE Park and the Rose Quarter:

"Imagine, further, the nerve of these people, starting with one Don Garber, commissioner of something called Major League Soccer, who issued an or-else deadline this week. Either the locals pony up a 20,000-seat soccer stadium by Halloween or his league will be forced to sell its next $10 million (U.S.) franchise elsewhere. As much as it, you know, pains him to have to miss out on this great market."

The next deadline in Portland is April 22, when City Council is expected to consider a "pre-development agreement" with Paulson, whose soccer team is scheduled to begin play in 2011.
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