Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Portland Beavers played their last game Monday afternoon, but the wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst Portland baseball fans had already commenced long before.
“Portland hates baseball!”
“Merritt Paulson wanted to get rid of the Beavers from the start!”
“It’s all Merritt Paulson’s fault”
“Who would want to watch soccer? Soccer sucks!”
“Soccer is boring; baseball is an American sport and is much more exciting.”Things only got more ridiculous from there.
Fans wanting to save PGE Park, a dumpy, antiquated, ill-equipped and poorly designed multi-use stadium in downtown Portland got mad because people wanted to save a the Memorial Coliseum, a dumpy, antiquated, ill-equipped and poorly designed multi-use arena in the Rose Quarter.
I think it is fantastic that an MLS team is moving to Portland, and its also fantastic that that the stadium formerly known as PGE Park is being turned into a facility that will be fantastic for one sport (soccer) and half-bad for another (college and high school football) instead of being an absolutely terrible facility for minor league baseball, soccer and football.
And this is coming from a guy who if you held a gun to his head and absolutely demanded he picked only one sport to follow, it would be baseball.
It’s sad that the Beavers are leaving, but ultimately it was the Timbers who drew the fans, and drew enough citizen support to lobby for their team.
The Beavers? Every time a new stadium idea was floated, vocal opposition shouted it down. As for supporters? Crickets. That may have something to do with the fact that the team is lucky to draw a thousand people to a game.
Baseball supporters argued that the team had more home games than the Timbers and thus the attendance figures were a wash. Yes, but with more home games come more operational costs, and those costs mostly went toward keeping a stadium running that was maybe one-quarter full on a good night.
Merritt Paulson offered to fork over more money than any minor league owner in recent history to get a stadium built, but with a down economy even that was not enough to get the job done, especially with political roadblocks tossed up at every turn.
Some fans even tried to blame The Oregonian for the team’s demise, saying it didn’t get enough coverage. I take my shots at the Big O on occasion, but its sports staff has gotten smaller every year, and yet they still work harder and crank out more good coverage than anyone around.
When fans are more interested in Oregon and Oregon State summer football camps than they are in a minor league game with a few hundred people in attendance, it’s a justifiable business decision to not devote the resources to covering the Beavers, just as it was a justifiable business decision for Paulson to cut his losses with the team.Triple-A baseball may return to Portland in the future, but it may be awhile. First a team would need to be found, and a new stadium built.
And building the stadium may not even be the hardest part. Major league teams have begun to realize that keeping their affiliates close to the big club makes economic and strategic sense. The closest major league teams to Portland all have strong relationships with Triple-A teams closer to their own stadium.In two years minor league affiliations come up again, and Portland’s best chance would be to convince the Seattle Mariners to put a Double A team (currently in Tennessee) or a Single A team (currently in California) in Portland.
But until that day comes, Portland area baseball fans will just have to watch on TV, or wander down to a beautiful renovated stadium and soak in a world-class soccer match.
That’s my plan.