I do not watch baseball on TV (sometimes I will watch a World Series game IF it is interesting…meaning game 4 or higher and it is a tied series), at PGE park or anywhere else in Portland.
I consider myself to be a fairly typical Portlander in that regard.
I have, however, when in other major US cities such as St. Louis, Cincinnati and Boston, gone to MLB games. I found myself getting caught up in the excitement that a MLB game brought to every day folks in those cities. I could not tell you who the players were and I did not have a favorite team. I do remember it was fun.
I will admit to becoming a willing participant in the mass ambiance of excitement for that evening’s game. There was something about the civic event that was an evening baseball game in those cities that was infectious. I would, based on those experiences, go to MLB games if we had a team in Portland.
I consider myself to be a fairly typical Portlander in that regard as well.
I have read with annoyed interest the opposition of some to building a MLB stadium in Portland. They cite the high cost and other more pressing needs our city has than building a MLB stadium in Portland.
Thank God none of these people were around to advise President Franklin Roosevelt how he might get this country out of the Great Depression in 1932.
FDR understood that to get the economy going again, the US had to create jobs. As a result, he created the largest public works projects in the history of the US. That effort resulted in mass public construction projects that we benefit from to this day including structures such as Timberline Lodge. FDR knew that putting people to work who were otherwise unemployed created wealth for the entire community that those workers were employed in.
If I remember my PSU economics class accurately, when a dollar is spent it has a multiplier effect of 3. In other words, for every dollar that is spent the effect on the economy is three dollars of economic activity that would otherwise have not occurred.
A person with a job will buy a house, car, groceries, clothes and the other necessities of life. All of those businesses that sell those goods and services benefit by that person having a job by a factor of $3 to every $1 spent. That person also pays taxes on the income he or she makes on that job. Those taxes help fund our vital public services including our schools.
Having said that, the plan to build a MLB stadium uses no funds -except about $10 million in urban renewal district funds- of the $350 million cost to build the stadium that would otherwise go to funding local services or schools. The vast majority of the financing is from dollars that do not compete with any services provided by the state, county, schools or City of Portland. These are dollars that would otherwise not be generated except for the construction of the stadium, such as a ticket surcharge to go to a baseball game or income tax revenue derived from the MLB baseball player’s salary.
The $350 million spent to build the stadium will create jobs that will benefit our entire economy more than $350 expenditure to build the stadium. The construction workers will purchase goods and services in our community that otherwise would not have been purchased. Those businesses that enjoy those sales will employ people and buy goods and services that otherwise would not have occurred.
In my opinion, this part of the MLB stadium debate is resolved in favor of it’s construction because it relies on the basic economic theory employed by FDR to bring the United States out of the depression in the 1930’s. I believe, therefore, that the financing and construction of the stadium could make economic sense.
However, it is after the decision to construct a stadium to bring MLB to Portland that I feel a slight chill tingling down my spine.
I have made it clear –repeatedly- to those working on the MLB stadium plan that my support is “site specific”. As people in downtown Portland often do, they nod and smile but suffer from hearing loss.
I believe that the narrow issue of just building a stadium pencils out IF it is sited in a location that makes it as easy as possible for fans to get to and from the stadium. In my opinion, the stadium should be built in an area of the city that allows for light rail service, enough potential construction capacity to build adequate ingress and egress to and from a properly sized parking lot and off ramps and on ramps from a freeway dedicated to the stadium. In general the site should allow for the infrastructure to be designed to fit a stadium that would allow for up to 50,000 people to get in and out of the stadium in the most painless manner possible. That is not feasible at a site, such as the main Post Office location downtown, whose infrastructure could never be constructed to allow for anything close to being adequate to move the numbers of people who would potentially go to a MLB game in Portland.
I have recommended that two specific sites on the east side be analyzed for a possible stadium location because each have more than enough room for a stadium and sufficient parking. Additionally, each of the sites could accommodate light rail and adequate roads to provide for the efficient movement of cars in and out of each of the two sites.
I cannot support a MLB stadium plan that does not provide the most efficient means possible to move fans in and out of a MLB stadium. In my opinion, that will be the key to the success or failure of Major League Baseball in Portland.
It is unfortunate that the legitimate benefits of bringing a Major League Baseball team to Portland are being mischaracterized by some for political reasons. The benefits of creating the jobs by constructing the stadium are likewise being ignored while the funding of the stadium construction is being misrepresented by some in our community who know better.
It is time for the Mayor to open up this discussion to include not just the public but also her fellow members of the council so that these issues can be flushed out in the open.
If the supporters of MLB are counting on my support, they must address the concerns I have raised here to get it.