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Seattle has a plan to renovate Key Arena -- likely for the NHL

Seattle has a plan to renovate Key Arena -- likely for the NHL

A private group based in Los Angeles seems to have a plan to renovate Seattle's Key Arena, with the idea of finally making it suitable for hockey and, of course, eventually land an NBA franchise for the city.

The group, Oak View Group, is headed by Tim Leiweke, who has been involved in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, as well as other sports ventures. Dynamic super-manager/promoter Irving Azoff serves on the board of Oak View.

Leiweke has virtually guaranteed that if the arena project is completed, Seattle will get "a team:"

"We're going to get you a team," OVG CEO Tim Leiweke told reporters following the winning bid. "Mark it right here. I promise you … we're going to get you at least one team."  

That team quite obviously is in the NHL, which now features an odd number of teams and needs another franchise in its Western Conference. I have two things to say about this announcement:

  • First, it means Portland's immediate chance of landing an expansion team in the NHL are likely zero. That league has seemed totally sold on Seattle over Portland for a while now and this pretty much locks it up. The chance of moving an existing struggling franchise to Portland still exists, however -- although I have heard nothing about such a thing in a while.
  • I've never been all-in on the idea of renovating an existing arena or stadium. It's been done before at Key Arena and didn't have much of an impact. At the cost of this renovation ($600 million) it seems like a very big project. But it's a fixer-upper, just the same. I've seen cities do this in an effort to save inadequate arenas and stadiums and they usually end up not working. Better to just find a plot of land and build something new. I've seen Portland's stadium go through so many iterations to get to the point of being Providence Park and it's still a stadium with charm -- but inadequate concourses, rest rooms, concession stands and sightlines. For all the money spent on it over the years it would have been better to build something updated and more comfortable. I'd say the same for Portland's Memorial Coliseum -- the only renovation that would work there is to just level it and start anew. In Seattle, they better have a great plan because these remodels are often tied to an inadequate structural support system. And that's enough money to come very close to constructing a new arena. Politics, though, have made that almost impossible in Seattle.

 

 

Murphy: Group pursuing MLB for Portland "doing it the right way"

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Murphy: Group pursuing MLB for Portland "doing it the right way"

Dale Murphy pointed to a group of people who represented the Seattle Mariners.

"You know what you need?" he asked. "You don't have a rival. Who's your rival? You don't have one. It should be Portland."

Murphy, a special guest speaker at Thursday night's Friends of Baseball Gala at the Portland Art Museum, went on to praise the group of people working behind the scenes trying to bring a major-league baseball franchise to Portland. Earlier, Murphy shared with me that he'd met with a representative of that group and was filled in on what's happening with the baseball effort.

"Being from here, when people hear the possibility of baseball, they want to know who's involved and you want it to be done the right way," said Murphy, a star at Portland's Wilson High School who now lives in Utah. "I had a great opportunity to meet with Mike Barrett and the one thing I would say is that you should have no concerns about the group that is handling this. These are good people who care about the city of Portland. That's what you want.

"I have the utmost confidence in the group that is pursuing this. They are doing it the right way and it's going to be something that is going to make this city proud. I have a lot of confidence in them. There is so much work to be done and they are doing things the right way. Sometimes people want publicity and adulation but this group is doing it right -- getting the work done and taking care of the things that need to be taken care of. That's what this group has done.

"I want someone who is going to understand Portland and how much we love the city. We want things done the right way and that's what they're doing."

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

Murphy's parents still live in Portland, he visits frequently and is visibly excited about an MLB franchise in his home town.

"I just opened a restaurant in Atlanta and I was thinking, 'Man, that would be fun to have a Murph's right by the ballpark.' If something happens here I will be in touch with this group to talk about a lot of possibilities. I would absolutely like to be involved in it. It was such a great opportunity to learn more about what they're doing and be a part of the cheering section. Baseball can mean so much to this area.

"So much has changed in the landscape of baseball franchises. The way they're building stadiums, for instance. The way they built SunTrust Park in Atlanta... with the mixed-use development, a smaller ballpark -- the ballparks become such a part of the community. These people doing this understand Portland and what a special place it is, on so many levels. This group is something the people of Portland can be proud of and get behind."

Murphy is planning on sticking around to watch one of his sons play for Weber State Saturday against Portland State. It's been an eventful week for him, too. Earlier this week he learned that he was on the list of 10 candidates to be reconsidered for baseball's Hall of Fame.

Murphy had a distinguished big-league career and was considered among the best players of his era. He played 18 seasons with the Braves, Phillies and Rockies and won back-to-back NL MVP awards in 1982 and 1983. He was also a seven-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner and four-time Silver Slugger Award. Murphy finished his career with a .265 average, 398 home runs and 1,266 RBIs. He led all Major League outfielders during the 1980s in home runs and RBIs. He also ranked second among outfielders in hits and extra-base hits.

TBT: The night Ric Flair told Vince that he'd bought half of WWF

TBT: The night Ric Flair told Vince that he'd bought half of WWF

Today, a special throwback Thursday treat, in honor of that great 30-for-30 special this week on pro wrestling's Ric Flair. Whatever you think of pro wrestling, Flair is one of the most dynamic entertainers you will ever see and was terrific in the ring.

I met him only once, when he was defending his championship in Portland. But he's one of those people who walks into a room and instantly draws your attention. Charisma? Yes, times 10.

[NBC Sports Gold "Blazers Pass" 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 - click to learn more and buy]

This video is from many years ago, the night Flair showed up on Monday Night Raw to inform the beautifully overacting Vince McMahon that he'd bought 50 percent of his company. Enjoy the commentary of Jerry Lawler and the great Jim Ross with appearances by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Kurt Angle.

It's a fun ride back to the days when Flair was at his best behind a mic.

Dodgers have the home field for Game 7 -- for the right reason?

Dodgers have the home field for Game 7 -- for the right reason?

One game for a championship. The World Series is on the line tonight in Dodger Stadium to climax one of the most entertaining Series in recent years.

Los Angeles owns the home-field advantage because it won 104 games this season. The Astros won 101. Of course the teams played in different leagues and thus played much different schedules. Houston is in the American League, which has been considered the superior league for the past several seasons. This is the first season baseball has decided its home field based on best record -- a practice that has become common in just all the other leagues. But this just isn't right.

I've never liked it. In baseball, basketball and football these teams don't play the same schedules. It just seems to me very unfair to go by record when one team may have played a much easier schedule than the other. For a while, baseball experimented with the giving the home field to the league that won the All-Star Game. But nobody seemed to like that method and instead of going back to the practice of simply alternating the home field from year to year, baseball went the way of everybody else and decided it on best record.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

Home field in baseball is not the factor it is in basketball, where home-crowd pressure on officials is a real factor in deciding outcomes. In baseball, most of the advantage comes from the fact that the home team gets to bat last -- which is an obvious edge. Going into the ninth inning and knowing how many runs you need to win the game really helps.

Certainly SOMETHING has to decide the home field and for me alternating it is probably the fairest thing. At least each league can plan on getting the edge every other year.

Who will win this season? There is no question the Dodgers have a decided advantage in the bullpens, which is becoming a very big deal in the postseason. But this has been an unpredictable World Series, full of dramatic and sometimes surprising twists and turns. Which makes me think that somehow the Astros will figure out a way to win it.

On the Dodgers' home field.

Game 2 of the World Series: Welcome to modern-day baseball

Game 2 of the World Series: Welcome to modern-day baseball

Welcome to Modern Baseball. I hope you enjoyed Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night because it was the best of new-age, analytics-based baseball.

Home runs? It's what the game is about these days. Yes, I'm guessing the ball is juiced, which is fine with me. But add in all the attention to launch angles, exit velocity and the fact that nobody wants to hit ground balls into shifts these days, you're going to get more home runs. And I love it. Eight home runs in a Series game was amazing and five in extra innings was shocking.

For too long, baseball has embraced a silly sort of one-base-at-a-time approach that has led to needlessly giving up outs with weak grounders to second and sacrifice bunts in early innings. Nobody ever paid good money to watch players bunt. And unless it's a weak-hitting pitcher bunting, the numbers just don't justify it.

I was watching a playoff game a couple of weeks ago -- wish I could remember who the participants were -- and there was a runner on second and nobody out. And of course we got all the usual pablum from the announcers about how the hitter has to make a "productive out" so the offensive team could "manufacture a run." You know, hit the ball to the right side of the infield. Hogwash. What happened was the right-handed batter took the first pitch, a hanging curve he could have hit into the upper deck, because it wasn't suitable for hitting to the right side of the field to advance the runner. On the second pitch he grounded weakly to second and became an instant hero.

He got huge back-pats from teammates and announcers for coming up with a weak out. "He did his job," they say. "He moved the runner up."

Sorry, I'd rather have a two-run homer or a simple line-drive single to left field. Even a walk. "Productive outs" are still outs -- and you get only 27 of them. Don't just give them away. And again, I think the analytics will back me up on this. Today it's all about the long ball and walks. Run the pitch count up, take your walks and belt three-run homers.

Of course there are a few things in the "new" game I don't like, foremost of which is the trend to overuse relief pitchers. All those pitching changes extend the game times and I think, in the long run, are detrimental to pitching staffs. It's led, like last night, to removing starters too early and asking closers to get six-out saves. I have no trouble with closers throwing more than one inning, but if that's what you want to do, go old school and have them do it in the regular season the way Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage did it. Don't condition them all season for one inning of work and then in the postseason, the most pressure-packed times, ask them to double their work load and do something you didn't ask them to do all season.

This World Series features two teams that are leaders in statistical analysis. They compile data and have learned how to use it to their advantage. It's a very underreported part of this World Series. These guys have come up with algorithms to analyze pitch sequences, if you can believe it. And the reason I bring this up is that I'm just sick of the old timers clinging to their tired and boring way of playing the game and deriding the new era of statistical analysis. There are still so-called experts who don't know OPS from TNT and it's time they did a little studying.

If you don't respect new information, you're never going to learn anything. And if you want to stop learning, just go away.

Last Week in 60 Seconds: The week that was in NW Sports

Last Week in 60 Seconds: The week that was in NW Sports

Justin Herbert finally started throwing a football again which is great news because the Ducks, unless you like offenses that look like Raymond Felton is at the point.

WWE Legend Kurt Angle thinks a certain “beast” on the Blazers roster could headline WrestleMania.

The Blazers opened the season with a 3-game road trip that wasn’t without its highs and lows.

The Ducks lost, and the Beavers won (kind of)!!!

Get all caught up with this week’s edition of Last Week in 60 Seconds

Mike Barrett involved with group attempting to bring MLB to Portland

Mike Barrett involved with group attempting to bring MLB to Portland

A management group has been working quietly behind the scenes for more than a year on a plan to bring major-league baseball and a stadium development to Portland.

The spokesman for the group, and a managing partner, is the former television voice of the Trail Blazers, Mike Barrett.

“There is a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative,” Barrett said Tuesday. “We will keep you fully apprised of any and all developments as this project progresses.”

Barrett, who did not identify anyone else in the group,  said they prefer to operate behind the scenes at this time but are pursuing a "smart and careful approach" and "doing it exactly the right way,"

Barrett was known for his work in basketball, particularly his play-by-play duties with the Trail Blazers, which began in the 2003-2004 season and ended after the 2015-16 season. But he was also an all-state pitcher at West Albany High School and is a lifelong baseball fan.

“After the Trail Blazers, I was weighing several opportunities but I didn’t want to leave the area,” Barrett said. “And when I was approached by this group, with a chance to help bring major-league baseball to my home state, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”

Portland began to sneak into conversations about MLB expansion during the last year or so.  Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned the city recently during an interview in Seattle, saying Portland would be “on a list” for expansion, emphasizing a need for a team in the Pacific time zone as part of a expanded and reconfigured 32-team league.

In a story published this week in Baseball America, well-connected Hall of Fame baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby outlined a 32-team expanded MLB with realignment that resulted in a 156-game schedule and four eight-team divisions, with Portland listed in the West division.

Ringolsby referred to Portland as a city with a “legitimate” ownership group, which is the group Barrett is associated with:

“And there is a legitimate ownership group in Portland that has the necessary financing along with support for a stadium, which would be partially funded by a $150 million grant. Approved by the state of Oregon to help finance a stadium when efforts were underway in 2003 to be the site for the relocation of the Expos (who instead moved to Washington, D.C.), the grant is still available.”

 

 

Donate at GoFundMe to help a partner of ours, Julian Rogers, who lost his home in the California fires

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Donate at GoFundMe to help a partner of ours, Julian Rogers, who lost his home in the California fires

For many years now, we have had a partnership with a local sports site, OregonSportsNews.com. They provide written and podcast content on a vareity of the Northwest sports teams. You can find their content on the right rail of the main page here at NBCSportsNorthwest.com

One of their writers, Julian Rogers, often had Seahawks related stories appear on our site. We got word today that he and his family lost everything (including their home) in the Santa Rosa fires in California. 

A GoFundMe page has been setup for Julian and his family. There have been a lot of natural disasters affecting our country lately, but if you have the means to donate anything please think of Julian and his family. Even if its just a few dollars, it all adds up. 

If you'd like to donate to a more general cause for victims of the California fires you can check out this story which has a variety of charities helping out those in the area. 

Prime Fighting 10 - Saturday 9/30

Prime Fighting 10 - Saturday 9/30

Be sure to check out Prime Fighting 10 coming up this Saturday at the Clack County Events Center. 

Tickets start at just $35 with doors opening at 6pm. Get more info and details on the fighters at PrimeFighting.net

TBT: Delta Dome and how Portland's big-league dream was barely derailed in 1964

TBT: Delta Dome and how Portland's big-league dream was barely derailed in 1964

Do you ever get frustrated that Portland doesn’t have an NFL team? A major-league baseball team?

Well, let me tell you how close we came to having both, way back decades ago –- back at a time when even politicians were on board for an exciting Portland sports future.

It was 1964 and the Houston Astrodome was being built and everyone knew that at some point, major-league sports had to come to the Pacific Northwest. And didn't a domed stadium seem like the right way to get them?

Seattle and Portland were on equal sports footing at that time – minor-league baseball franchises in the Pacific Coast League and minor-league hockey in the Western Hockey League. Seattle was still three years away from landing the NBA Sonics.

The idea of a domed stadium was originally part of a plan for a Portland bid to host the summer Olympics, which in those days was still an affordable plan. The centerpiece of that bid was a domed stadium in Delta Park, north of Portland, surrounded by a myriad of other sporting venues.

Eventually, when it was apparent the Olympic bid was  going nowhere, people began to get the idea of chasing pro football and major-league baseball – beating Seattle to the punch.

Then-governor Mark Hatfield and Portland mayor Terry Shrunk were behind the proposal and pushed hard for it and a hastily put-together campaign began -- to get a ballot measure passed in the city to fund what was then a $25-million project.

The 46,000-seat stadium would feature a dome that would be plexiglass and would not enclose the stadium – just cover it. There was to be a breezeway between the roof and the seating area, meaning it would not have been climate controlled. Still, for its time, it was a very innovative project.

Even better, there was a very real possibility of big-league sports being lured to Portland.

The American Football League Oakland Raiders were still uncertain about their future in that city and the prevailing rumor was that their youthful general manager, Al Davis, was ready to load the moving van and bring the team to Portland if the local ballot measure passed.

Believe it or not, in 1964 that didn’t bring about a whole lot of excitement. Nobody knew at that time the AFL, behind Davis as its commissioner, would force a merger and become part of the NFL. In fact, the NFL wasn’t even that big of a deal in those days.

There was also hope for a major-league baseball team because there were franchises in trouble and rumors of expansion.

Sadly – for sports fans at least – the ballot measure failed in Portland by fewer than 10,000 votes. Later, the same measure was put up for a vote in Multnomah County and failed by about the same margin.

Seattle, of course, landed the MLB Pilots in 1969 and they played in tiny Sicks’ Stadium, the Triple-A ballpark. That team left after one season and Seattle didn’t get an NFL or big-league baseball team until after the Kingdome was built in 1976.

I’m convinced Portland could have beaten Seattle into both leagues with that dome.

And that ballot measure should have passed in Portland, by the way, but mistakes were made.

First off, the advocates didn’t do a very good job of convincing Portlanders that big-league teams could be lured to the stadium, But history shows they probably could have – a domed stadium would have been impossible for expansion-minded NFL and MLB owners to pass up.

Yes, even in those days, it was difficult to convince the locals we could actually become a big-league city.

The biggest reason for the measure’s defeat, though, was the location. First of all, it would have been better to get the stadium measure passed without naming a location.

Delta Park was too much to overcome. The fact that 1964 was fewer than 20 years after the Vanport flood, which saw the area of Delta Park under water, really hurt the effort. Even though they were assured that Columbia River dams would keep that tragic event from happening again, too many people were worried the new stadium would end up floating away in a flood. There were also complaints at the time that the stadium would be closer to Vancouver -- which was not paying any part of the bill -- than Portland.

As it turns out, the area has never been flooded and the city of Portland has pretty much extended past Delta Park. And Portland remains pretty much a minor-league town other than the Trail Blazers.

Because of a paltry 10,000 votes.

Editor's note regarding photo:

"A postcard of a proposed stadium in Portland, Oregon which was up to a vote on the county ballot. Measure 2 approval would have meant the Delta Park area of Portland would have been converted into a 40,000 seat domed multi-purpose stadium. Votes ultimately rejected the bond."