Canzano: MLB to PDX effort invites Oakland A's for a tour
Two new suburban stadium sites in play.
The second home game of the Oakland A’s season arrived with a sobering kicker.
Tuesday’s attendance: 3,748.
A day earlier, in the home opener, the club drew 17,503 in a disappointing turnout for a franchise that markets itself as “Rooted in Oakland.” Can’t say I blame fans for staying away. The A’s have engineered what amounts to a tank job. They traded Matt Olson, Sean Manaea and Matt Chapman for a pile of prospects. And Chris Bassitt was sent to the Mets in a fire sale.
Oakland’s payroll for the active 26-man roster this season is $31.7 million, dead last in MLB. It’s created a glaring competitive imbalance designed to suck the enthusiasm out of the enterprise. There are 27 franchises, for example, that will pay at least $60 million in salary this season. The Dodgers will spend $241 million.
“It’s looking dire,” said one MLB source.
The Portland Diamond Project was scheduled a year ago to host A’s owner John Fisher and team president Dave Kaval for a visit and tour of potential stadium sites.
The A’s contingent had already toured Las Vegas, exacerbating the angst in Oakland. Kaval and Fisher never came to Portland. Some claim the Downtown Portland scenery wasn’t presentable. Others insist MLB commissioner Rob Manfred intervened and advised the A’s that they’d already created enough leverage with the Las Vegas visits.
Craig Cheek, founder of the Portland Diamond Project told me on Wednesday that he’s reached back out to Fisher and Kaval and invited them back to Portland. He also said the MLB to PDX group has pivoted to a couple of potential suburban stadium sites — adding one in the west suburbs and one in the east. It now has four viable sites.
"We’re alive, we have a heartbeat, we’re still working on things, we haven’t lost our confidence,” Cheek said.
Las Vegas had the political will and the funds to lure the Raiders from Oakland. The A’s visit last year put Portland in second position. The Diamond Project submitted a development bid for the Lloyd Center Mall property. Then, it turned the focus to the suburbs.
Beaverton? Milwaukie? Gresham? Tigard? Oregon City?
Cheek won’t say exactly. His group doesn’t yet own the option to develop either suburban parcel. But he insists the objective remains to build a stadium and either relocate the A’s/Rays to our region or be a destination for eventual MLB expansion.
“We’re a great fit,” Cheek said.
Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group announced last month that it has acquired 25 acres at the end of The Strip in Las Vegas. It will build a casino, hotel and NBA-ready arena. The announcement took some air out of the MLB to Vegas effort.
“There is no certainty or no guarantees the NBA is ever coming to Vegas, but should they come, we certainly will be NBA-ready and make sure we hit all of their standards,” Leiweke said.
I love the ambition.
I’d like to see more of that in Portland.
Said Cheek: “We have four, probably five, very viable sites. Two of them are downtown. It’s not just where you can plunk a ballpark. We want to develop an entertainment district around it.”
It’s a model the Braves embraced in relocating 12 miles outside of Atlanta in Cobb County. The franchise got tax breaks, a new ballpark and renewed enthusiasm.
It’s been more than four years since the Diamond Project revealed its mission. There have been rallies, T-shirts, and tens of thousands of hopeful fans have signed petitions. The naysayers will tell you that big league baseball is never happening. It’s the easy position to assume. Moving an established professional sports team requires a massive amount of funding, a venue, political will, and some luck. Also, you’ve got to have cooperation from the entity you’d like to entice.
I still believe MLB to PDX is possible. The potential stadium projects in the Bay Area are stalled. Fisher doesn’t want to succeed in Oakland. There’s no other reasonable explanation for how the A’s roster has been constructed. Las Vegas feels suddenly more focused on landing an NBA franchise, too. It leaves Portland in an interesting and opportunistic position.
Only 3,748 showed up on Tuesday to see the A’s play. It was the worst non-COVID baseball crowd in Oakland since the 1980s. The whole thing feels sad. The best outcome includes the A’s moving to a new market where they’ll get a new stadium, new fans and new energy.
Cheek’s group needs to demonstrate some bonafide progress soon. I’m growing restless and I’ll bet you are, too. There’s a sense of urgency. MLB has talked for nearly five years about wanting to get the A’s and Rays stadium situations locked down. They remain unsettled. Kaval and Fisher should tour the potential sites in Portland and see what’s there. The franchise has exhausted its options — and fans — in Oakland.
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