For months, rumors of an attempt to bring Major League Baseball to Portland have been circulating.
A key hurdle for that effort? A site for a stadium in the midst of a construction boom.
But this week, backers of an effort to bring a team to town are announcing they've made formal offers on two separate properties: the Portland Public Schools headquarters in the Lloyd District, and an industrial site in Northwest, which a source tells WW is the old Esco Corp. foundry site.
The group, which for now is calling itself the Portland Diamond Project, is hoping to lure the Oakland A's north, or get MLB officials to grant Portland an expansion team.
The backers, led by former Nike executive Craig Cheek, are also trying to grapple with another major obstacle: the political support needed to build a stadium.
In a statement to WW, Cheek says his group "does not intend to ask the city or Legislature to create any new programs to fund the ballpark."
In an Oregonian story April 16 on the prospects for baseball in Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler's office said he is focused on housing and other priorities.
So the Portland Diamond Project is hoping to entice the mayor with exactly that: a mixed-use development that ties 8,000 units of housing to a 32,000-seat stadium.
"Our team has commissioned a comprehensive economic study of both sites, and preliminary reports indicate both possess the right mix of infrastructure and proximity to Portland's downtown," Cheek says. "Both districts have ample room for multifamily development, which can help alleviate Portland's housing crisis."
Another sign the development group is serious: It has retained Kansas City-based Populous Architects, which designed big-league ballparks, and New York attorney Irwin Raij, who has experience with MLB.
But the two offers could fall on hard soil. PPS is a large bureaucracy unlikely to move quickly, while the Esco site needs the support of Northwest District Association, which resists big developments and traffic.
The backers already have a fight on their hands over one of the sites. Meyer Memorial Trust chief investment officer Rukaiyah Adams has been leading an effort to bring affordable housing to the Rose Quarter, called the Albina Vision, is a critic.
"Bringing an MLB team to Portland is interesting," she says. "However, locating a baseball stadium in Lower Albina does not fit with the Albina Vision, or the most pressing needs of the city for that matter. We're not backing down from the Albina Vision. So get your peanuts and Cracker Jacks, and let's play ball."
Here are the two sites the group is eyeing for a baseball stadium.