Should Portland taxpayers have paid $30m to save the Beavers?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Today, on 95.5 FM, sports talk radio host (and Oregonian columnist) John Canzano and Portland's Mayor Sam Adams got into a heated discussion about the end of the Portland Beavers in Portland. Since the interview earlier today, they've been 95.5 has been replaying it every hour on the hour.

It's worth a listen. As in his Sunday column, Canzano accused Mayor Adams - and the rest of the city council - of failing to do more to save the Beavers. Mayor Adams argued that "it's a tough value proposition" to justify spending $30 million of additional taxpayer money.

What's my take?

Your thoughts?

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    Canzano had some valid points. The Memorial Coliseum site should never have been shelved. Those 150 events they crow about could all have been hosted in some of our other under utilized spaces like the convention center and the rest could have easily been shifted to the Rose Garden. The Winterhawks have a marked increase in attendance when they play in the modern facility and that was about half the events. Sam should have been driving the first bulldozers to knock that place down. The reality is that no matter how much we all want to hate on Merritt for having money he offered a better proposal for the Memorial Coliseum than any other stadium proposal in the country as far as private money goes. We can whine all we want about rich people paying their fair share (and they should) but this is how sports business is conducted the world over. Portland can carry the torch for the eff rich sports people but that means it will forever be passed over for the Sacramentos or Escondidos or Salt Lake Citys of the world that will build a stadium because they realize having entertainment options adds to the quality of life in their cities. Yes I realize there are potholes that need to be filled etc.

    All that being said Canzano dropped down to personal attacks and whatever his buddy Lars has been telling him over the last two years and any credibility he had over the stadium issue was gone at that point. Too bad. He had some good points but now he just looks like an idiot.

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    "Sam should have been driving the first bulldozers to knock that place down."

    Some of us disagree on the issues of utility, history, and architecture. But thanks for your dismissive opinion all the same.

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      I realize there is a history there. There was far more history at Yankee Stadium, the Boston Garden, Giants Stadium, Highbury, and Chicago Stadium all of which have been torn down. It's an arena and nothing more no matter what elements of design were used.

      The financial package at that location for a baseball stadium was better than anything we'll ever see again. Now they're talking about spending $25 million to do about half the repairs the building needs. So yeah...Sam should have been manning the first bulldozer or preferably the TNT detonator.

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    I agree with what Garrett said.
    But I always thought it was short sighted to aim only for a AAA size stadium. Any site/stadium should be upgradable to MLB standards, and neither PGE park or Memorial coliseum really fit the bill. I suspect a larger stadium would actually be easier to make pencil out, due to higher attendance and more events. The key is finding a big enough site to redevelop within walking distance of light rail.

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    As someone who was up to his eyeballs in this entire process I think I have some light to shed on this fight.

    Garret is absolutely right. Where Adams was weak in this process was in folding to the Angry architects and the Blazers in regards to the Memorial Colesium sight. The uprising ( by a vocal few) came at the worst possible time in regards to the Breedlove affair blowing up.

    However the true reason that the Beavers are leaving is because for the past 3 years they have had 150 season ticket holders. 150. There wasn't a base that was there to lobby for Beavs fans interests in this process because they didn't really exist. Timbers fans were far more active and involved in advocating for a baseball stadium at a variety of locations than Beavers fans ever were.

    Finally let's be clear about this $30 million being thrown about. In every proposal that money never came from general fund. It was a mix of spectator fund monies and URD funds.

    And here on

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    There's no chance for a San Diego farm team in Portland.

    Here's a better idea. Put a Mariners Single A farm team in Vancouver, WA.

    Vancouver's got lots of land to put a minor league stadium. Cheaper land.

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    Pointed out on the Twitters last night:

    • Portland Aerial Tram (one of Canzano's wastes) has 1.2 million riders per year
    • MAX (another boondoggle) has 120k riders a day
    • 15k people daily ride a bike across the Willamette. 98k daily ride a bike in Portland.
    • Beavers' attendance last year was 280,000. Sacramento's attendance, tops in the PCL, was 657,000.

    Canzano's response: "would cost less to chauffer the docs" (re: the tram)


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    It's also worth noting that of the 7 most recent cities to land Major League Baseball teams, only two had Triple-A franchises to boot out. Cities do reach a certain size where it's just not practical to support Triple-A baseball anymore.

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    While the $30MM figure gets bandied about, both Adams and canzano dodged around the figure Portland paid to hasten the demise of the Beavers in funding the Timbers renovated stadium.

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      Not sure what you are talking about Kurt as this is readily available information and has been in for some time. Bottom line the city is financing $11 million in bonds against the Spectator Facilities Fund that will be paid off by ticket taxes. $11 million to upgrade a publicly owned facility to a major league stadium is remarkable.

      Paulson Capitalized rent payment: $11.1 million Paulson Cash payment: $8.0 million City Spectator Facility Fund Bonds:$11.2 million City Assumed Soft Costs: $.7 million Total: $31.0 million Merritt Paulson agrees to personally guarantee revenues for years 1-7. The $11.1 million payment represents projected revenues between years 8 and 25, and it will be paid up front in a single, lump-sum cash payment by Peregrine, LLC. The City of Portland will receive a 7% User Fee on all ticketed events at PGE Park, and the City will receive 100% of all User Fee revenues in excess of City projections for PGE Park. In other words, the City is entitled to share in any upside realized from PGE Park events where attendance exceeds projections. Peregrine, LLC may recoup guarantee payments made when revenues are below projections in a given year by recovering 70% of any User Fee revenues in excess of projections in subsequent years until the guarantee payment is recovered. If construction costs exceed $31.0 million, then the City will extend the term of the lease agreement on PGE Park for a period equal to $1 million in net present value. Peregrine, LLC will be responsible for all other cost overruns. In other words, the City’s liability for cost overruns will not exceed $1 million. City assumed soft costs represent development-related fees, like system development charges (SDCs), that the City has agreed to waive. Three aspects of this proposed deal are particular notable. First, the vast majority of the City’s contribution will be paid for by Spectator Facility Fund revenue and bonds issued against those revenues. Additionally, the Spectator Facility Fund will be able to absorb the new debt (the bonds that will be issued) even if the new MLS franchise or the league fails. Second, the overall cost of the proposed financing package has been reduced to account for reduced construction costs. The total amount of this reduction is approximately $7 million. Finally, this deal does not rely upon urban renewal funds, impact the City's General Fund or impinge upon the City's ability to provide basic services.

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    I'm against public subsidies for privately owned sports franchises, period. If the ownership is fan based (like, for example, the Green Bay Packers, I think), then I'm open to very, very modest subsidy proposals, but nothing like $30 million.

    Sport franchises do not create economic growth. They are bad public investments.

    On my scale of alternative investments, $30 million could send 375 Portland high schoolers to China for a year of high school each year for ten years. That would create long term economic growth in Portland.

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    The Beavers ranked last in attendance this season at 4,265. Since the team's return, in 2001, attendance figures routinely hovered between 4,500 and 5,500. (

    What more needs to be said?

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    Kari, I agree with your assessment. Portland is way more of a soccer and basketball town than a baseball town.

    The Elks, which is a college farm team in Bend (not even an affiliated minor league team), averaged nearly 2,500 people per game this summer in a stadium with capacity of just over 3,000. And Central Oregon is roughly 230,000 in population. For the Beavers to only draw an average of 4,500 fans with the Metro area's population - I don't see how the investment in the Beavers is good use of public dollars.

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    We spend hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at private corporations a year for a variety of reasons, all to supposedly do something that is in the public interest. At least in this case, we know who is getting the money.

    There are about 20 businesses in Portland who get huge property tax breaks because they say they are creating jobs. But I challenge any of you to tell me who they are, how much tax benefit they received and how many jobs they created. None of that data is online, and if you try to get it from the PDC or Business Oregon, they aren't the most forthcoming.

    All these economic development subsidies should be posted online with the basic data of who got it, how much, and what did they do for it.

    This is common practice in other states, and there is no reason we shouldn't do it here. It would certainly increase the accountability of these programs for the public to know what our tax dollars are being used for.

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    Kari there is no good "economic development" reason to support athletic stadiums. It just doesn't pencil out.

    My own read is that this just isn't a baseball town. That became clear to us within a few weeks of moving here from Durham, NC, where the AAA team routinely draws 10,000 fans.

    I do think that the Mayor's lack of clout showed precisely in the way he caved to the opposition to Memorial Coliseum.

    But Canzano otherwise is just a dolt. The Tram is completely irrelevant to this discussion, it is sunk costs. I think more to the point is a major economic downturn, a city struggling with its finances, and an owner with the same name as the outgoing Treasury secretary in a reviled administration.

    The cards we just stacked against this deal.

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    If I hear "Portland Isn't a baseball town" one more time, I think I'll hurl my laptop.

    Portland is a major metro area that has the capacity to support a variety sporting endeavors via a broad and eclectic fan base. You're not going to march down to the Blues Fest and tell folks that we're more of a symphony town, are you?

    The TOTAL loss of professional baseball to this area is disharmonic convergence to the Nth degree. A bad economy, bad timing, bad loans and bad politics combined to tear baseball away from the fabric of our community.

    Trying to slam out relocation proposals didn't sit well with folks in the NE nor the folks in Lents. Paul Allen Vulcans aside, NE residents and business weren't warm to tearing up their neighborhoods. The cockamamie approach to Lents was to rip apart the one nice green space in the entire community, provide inadequate parking (about a 1/4 of what was necessary) and shove overflow parking on to Marshall High's lot.

    Folks would have needed to google their way from Marshall to the ballpark.

    But the bottom line is that the entire Portland community was thrust into a soccer vs. baseball scenario with a predetermined outcome. NEVER should have baseball and soccer fans felt as if they were competing against one another, but more than anyone else, Mayor Adams allowed this to happen.

    The City had significant leverage in dealing w/ MLS. Adams will tell you that MLS INSISTED that no multi-use facilities would be permissible, and he, along with soccer devotees have pointed to a letter from MLS indicating just that.

    Since when did Portland lose its will to negotiate with an entity which had clearly IDed PDX as a top market? MLS was licking their chops at a franchise here - the City had negotiation power.

    The City could have bartered for at least one more year of dual use, allowing the Beavers to stay one more season, and giving some more long sight to relocation proposals. But it didn't happen for one reason - there was no political will from the Mayor's office.

    The complications are numerous for professional sports (re)development, and many have been addressed above. But when over a year ago Mayor Adams snarled at a season ticket holder that "baseball is DONE in Portland," the writing was on the wall.

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      If I hear "Portland Isn't a baseball town" one more time, I think I'll hurl my laptop.

      Portland is a major metro area that has the capacity to support a variety sporting endeavors via a broad and eclectic fan base. You're not going to march down to the Blues Fest and tell folks that we're more of a symphony town, are you?

      Carla, the thing that I find most incongruous about all of this is the number of people who complain that the Beavers are leaving town, when the fact is that nobody ever went to Beavers games. I find it rather similar to Conan O'Brien syndrome:

      Now, the biggest and most important thing to remember is to never, under any circumstances bring up a Conan O’Brien sketch or joke that has taken place in the last three years. You will be met with only blank stares. For you see, while white people will fiercely support Conan O’Brien in any public forum, they always fail to support him in the only way that actually helps – by watching his show.

      Portland was the largest metro area in the Pacific Coast League, and yet the Beavers attendance was near the bottom of the league. Yes, Portland is a big town with the capacity to support diverse interests, but that doesn't mean that every sport will fare equally well. Every city has it's own culture, and that means that some sports are going to do better than others. Montreal's a big town too, but the Habs have done slightly better than the Expos over the years.

      All of that said, I maintain my belief that a MLB team would fare better here than the Beavers ever did. But the fact is that there are more people complaining about the Beavers leaving town today than ever went to their games.

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        Getting butts in the seats is, of course, the primary challenge of the entertainment endeavor.

        The roller coaster history of Beavers entrances and exits to Portland is notable. A looksee at the fan attendance records coupled with marketing effort would no doubt reveal variables and tendencies that could be instructive.

        At once we, as Portlanders, regard our town as a city without baseball, but recall an all too recent effort to woo MLB. That contradiction alone leaves most Portland baseball fans scratching their heads.

        But I can tell you one thing. Generally, teams on the way out do not draw - irrespective of a burg's relative attendance potential for a sports team.

        This may not speak to the years prior to this whole kerfuffle, but the thought that there's no taste for baseball in PDX was vibrantly debunked by 15,000 folks on Labor Day.

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      Adams will tell you that MLS INSISTED that no multi-use facilities would be permissible, and he, along with soccer devotees have pointed to a letter from MLS indicating just that.

      Clearly, MLS negotiated above their actual need - and we caved.

      Last weekend, I happened to be on the campus of Santa Clara University - where the San Jose Earthquakes play. When I was told that, I did a doubletake, and actually asked my host (a huge soccer fan) if the Quakes were MLS. Told that they were, I was stunned -- that stadium is TINY compared to PGE Park. I mean SMALL.

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      I'm with you on the "Portland isn't a baseball town" trope. What does that mean anyway? Is Sacramento a "baseball" town? The River Cats double the Beavers' annual attendance. So did Memphis. These are both comparably sized metro areas to Portland, both with competing NBA teams. The Beavers are (were?) a poorly marketed mediocre product. Blaming Portlanders for not buying what they were selling, or blaming the pols for not subsidizing this mess, is just kind of dumb in my opinion. The sports media's take on this is interesting. It's advocacy masquerading as reporting.

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    The revisionist history by upset "Beavers Fans" as to how this whole thing played out is what is truly irritating more than anything else.

    As the leader of MLS to PDX (fan based grassroots organization) I begged for Baseball fans to help out. For almost 2 years we were told that MLS in Portland was contigent on finding a home for the Beavers.

    I would argue we spent far more time advocating for various Beavers ball parks then we did for remodeling PGE for football and soccer (one of the great unnoticed parts of this deal is how much this benefits PSU Football who did nothing to help out but that is a different story).

    I was at every task force meeting that examined the PGE Park and Memorial Coliseum proposals and forcefully argued for both. I was at the Lents community meeting where Merrit Paulson was practically lynched. I was at the uprising of the angry architects against the Memorial Colesium at the LeftBank ball room.

    In almost two years I did not see or hear from ONE single Beavers fan. That is not an exaggeration. The few baseball fans that do exist were happy to let the MLS to PDX folks carry their water for them.

    If I sound exasperated it is because I am. It feels like Timbers fans are being blamed for the loss of Baseball when many of them did as much as they could to save the Beavers. Certainly far more than the people who are only speaking up now.

    The apathy of the Beaver fan base in this whole process mirrored the apathy PDX has had towards the team for the past 10 years since they returned to town.

    At the end of the day this was a political process and politicians respond to their constituents. There was no constituency for Beavers Baseball and that played out in the stands and in City Hall.

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      Your comment misses a key point. You were advocating for change, which is fine.

      Why would the normal Beavers fan - be they a Season ticket holder, or occasional drop-in even think they'd have to advocate for the status quo?

      Blaming the baseball fan for the Beavers exit is not only BS, it's just nasty.

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    Canzano went way overboard in his "conversation" with Mayor Adams. Every time Mayor Adams argued a point, instead of rebutting it, Canzano brought up another issue (the tram, bike lanes, Breedlove, green jobs, etc.). That might be a great way to unload on someone, but it's not a very good way to discuss an issue (or even lay out a difference of opinion).

    Canzano might have won the short-term attention/ratings game, but with his rude and scatter-shot arguments, not many (or any) public officials will debate Canzano on air in the future.

    Plus, whether you like the Mayor or not, referring to Adams twice as the "interim Mayor" displayed a complete lack of class, or ignorance (or both).

    I hope Canzano enjoyed his first and last policy debate.

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    For some reason, the O really went to ba--sorry, that pun's too lame. Anyway, the O really was hot to save the Beavs. This is odd given that much of the time, the O is covering business objectively on the journo side and railing against socialism on the op-ed side. Anyone who has been to a Beavs game in the past few years knows the problem: this was a product no one wanted. I tried to make a thirsty Thursday or whatever they called it--the beer was cheaper then--and the stands were depressingly empty.

    No one gives a damn about a minor league baseball team anymore. This is a product of the size of Portland. Try starting up a minor league team in another major city and see what happens.

    Why on earth the city should spend big money on this isn't clear. Had I been mayor, I would have said: Portlanders, start attending Beavers games and show us you want to save the team--otherwise, let's just bid a grateful goodbye.

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      "If I hear "Portland Isn't a baseball town" one more time, I think I'll hurl my laptop.

      I have enuf problems with computers; please don't make me turn this into a projectile.

      "Portland is a major metro area that has the capacity to support a variety sporting endeavors via a broad and eclectic fan base. You're not going to march down to the Blues Fest and tell folks that we're more of a symphony town, are you?"

      As a baseball fan, I ACCEPT that the market for Portland soccer is vibrant. However, what makes me absolutely livid is not only have some in the soccer community broadly advocated the spending of public money for THEIR entertainment interests, but have steadfastly insisted that there is NO market for pro baseball IN ANY form.


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    Was Canzano drunk? I'm not even a fan of Adams' "leadership" and thought it was way overboard.

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    As a Beavers fan since 1979, I feel as if part of my heart has been ripped out. I know we're facing big unemployment numbers, and one can always rationalize spending money on something other than entertainment. But for me, going to Beavers games was one of the most enjoyable things I did. I feel that Portland and the city council let me down by not finding a way to keep the Beavers.

    On fan support, and lack thereof, it's a concern but misleading at the same time. I'm not sure about the 150 season tickets, but if true, that's 150 full season tickets, 70 games or so. And nobody but the truly insane go to that many minor league games in a year. I had a season ticket package, 15 games, I think. And I went to about 20 games this year. That's probably more games than soccer fans attended Timbers matches this year. I know, my tickets were cheaper, but I ate more hot dogs and drank more beer. The problem with the baseball's low attendance is product and venue. The last time a major league exhibition baseball game was played in Portland, tickets sold out in 15 minutes. So given a good product, people will come anywhere. But with a minor league team, the venue becomes more important. How close and comfortable are the seats? Is there a picnic area? Is there convenient parking? I personally liked PGE Park and didn't mind taking the bus or MAX. But some of these issues, especially parking, kept a lot of people away. A new, modern minor league park close to freeways and with parking (i.e. the Coliseum site) would have easily drawn in the 7K-8K range. Portland soccer fans certainly understand the importance of venue. Otherwise, why remodel PGE Park? The number of seats after the remodel isn't that much different than before, it's just that more of the seats will now be much closer to the action and the stadium will seem more intimate.

    So, in my opinion, citing past attendance figures as a reason for not building a new baseball stadium is misleading. In this case, "if you build it, they will come" is probably more to the point.

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