City of Portland

Mariner CEO seems a little concerned about MLB in Portland

Mariner CEO seems a little concerned about MLB in Portland

John Stanton, the CEO of the Seattle Mariners, paid a visit to Portland last week -- a rare move for someone that high up the team's organizational ladder. I'm not sure why he showed up here but I have a hunch it was to deliver a message.

I believe Stanton wanted to make sure everybody here understands that he considers Portland part of the Mariners' territory -- and he wants to throw a little cold water on this city's thoughts about acquiring a major-league baseball team. There is a local group working behind the scenes on bringing MLB to Portland and the sports' commissioner has mentioned this city as a possible expansion site.

From Stanton:

“Success and a sustainable position very much depends on the size of your market,” he said. “Seattle is already one of the smallest markets in terms of population and the smallest market in the AL West, adding that San Diego was the smallest market in the NL West and that “Portland would be smaller than both.”

“If I were in Portland’s position, I would look at what it would take to generate the revenues to be successful, and that is a challenge,” said Stanton.

I was amused to see this man try to paint Seattle as a small market.  That metropolitan area is listed as the No. 12 market in the country -- which, obviously, is anything but small. Portland has moved up from No. 24 to No. 22 recently and is moving upward. But even now, Portland's market is bigger than existing MLB franchises located in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Kansas CIty, Cincinnati, San Diego and Milwaukee. Portland is also listed ninth in future growth rate among MLB cities.

Stanton is rightly concerned with the impact an MLB team in Portland would have on the Mariners. But I would suggest he should fret a little more about the possibility of the NHL and NBA coming to his town soon. The M's have been struggling at the gate for a few seasons now and the presence of two more major-league franchises in a city already crowded with them -- plus the University of Washington -- is likely to result in revenue declines in other sports.

But good luck up there in your tiny little hamlet. John. Portland has been helping prop up your franchise for decades and perhaps it's getting close to a time for your city to return the favor.


Paul Allen to blame for Blazer woes? That's just silly

Paul Allen to blame for Blazer woes? That's just silly

I'm not really sure where it's coming from, but lately I've been hearing a lot of blame for the Trail Blazers' early season struggles directed at the team's owner, Paul Allen.

I mean, seriously?

Let me ask you this: Without Allen as the owner, where would the Trail Blazers be right now? I'll answer that one for you -- in Seattle, that's where. Or Las Vegas. Or Vancouver, B.C. Because without Allen funding the construction of the Moda Center, this team would not have a new arena and would have moved out of town years ago as Memorial Coliseum decayed.

I've lived here all my life and I can tell you, there is no way this city would have ever paid for a new arena. There would have been no political will and no ballot measure. And if it ever got on the ballot, it would have failed. Miserably.

But Allen, unlike just about every other owner in pro sports, didn't come begging to the city for a new venue -- he built it himself. To the everlasting benefit of this city. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in basketball, you've probably enjoyed an experience of some sort in that arena. And the reality is, the Rose Quarter and its arena don't belong to Allen, they belong to the citizens of Portland.

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And you want to talk basketball? This city is very fortunate to have an owner who cares about his team. Cares enough to provide payrolls that have ranked the Trail Blazers very often among the top five in the NBA. This is a small market, folks. The TV and radio rights fees don't provide the kind of coin owners earn in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and many other larger markets.

Allen wants to win more than he wants to make money off his team. Think about that for a moment. How many other owners would even attempt to say that? Allen has proved it year after year and I would guess he's had very few seasons where this franchise has actually turned a profit. Allen wants a ring and is willing to pay for it.

But it's hard. I believe it's much more difficult to win a championship in the NBA than any other pro league. Championships are won by the same teams year after year -- even before this modern era of "superteams."

Yes, Allen is interested in the Trail Blazers. Interested enough that he wants in on decisions regarding drafts, trades and roster. For what he's spent on this franchise, is that not his right? Does he "meddle?" I have no idea. I do know that some of his general managers could have used a little more meddling. Has he made some wrong choices with GMs and coaches? I suppose. But who hasn't?

Allen does not live in Portland but you could make a case with all he and his franchise have done for this city, on the court and in the community, he's one of its most benevolent citizens.

And any assertion that he's been a negative influence on his franchise is just plain silly.

After all these years, Portland is still "putting silk stockings on hogs"

After all these years, Portland is still "putting silk stockings on hogs"

It was the early 1970s and the City of Portland had made the decision to install artificial turf in ancient Civic Stadium. Rather than go with Astro-Turf, the common solution at the time, the city opted for a different choice. It was called Tartan Turf and it didn't last, hardened very soon and looked quickly like a worn carpet in the world's oldest hotel room.

I remember watching the workmen scrambling around the surface of the big old barn, applying the adhesive and then the carpet. I was working for the Portland Beavers at the time, trying to get through college. Bill Cutler, the man who owned the Beavers at the time, was there, too. He looked at me with a sad face and shook his head.

"It's like putting silk stockings on a hog," he said, then turned around and shuffled back to his dumpy office in the bowels of the dark stadium. Very soon, Cutler would move the Beavers to Spokane, unable to make a lease deal with a City Council here that seemed to think it suddenly had a big-league facility on its hands.

Our civic leaders have never really cared much about sports and their venues. If Paul Allen hadn't written a big check to build what's now Moda Center, our NBA team would have been long gone years ago. Our city would never have found the means to construct a new home for the Trail Blazers. We'd still be haggling over video boards and walk-through security for Memorial Coliseum -- trying to make an outdated, uncomfortable 12,000-seat arena work for an NBA team. Trust me, I speak the truth on this.

Yeah, the replay screens. They've been either dark or a blurry mess at the coliseum for years and the city -- or maybe the Portland Winterhawks -- are finally doing something about it. Because, as you know, watching hockey without being able to see the replay of a goal or a big save is ridiculous. Which, of course, is not the only reason the Hawks draw so many fewer fans when they play in the coliseum rather than the Moda Center.

Wow. The narrow leg room, crowded concourses, ugly rest rooms and frigid arena temperatures are still going to be there, but you now have a replay screen.

So many decades later, that's just another pair of silk stockings, folks.

I'm not going to get into another debate with the well-meaning people who pushed to get that dump declared a national treasure. It's pointless. Keep your national treasure and put a big red bow around it for all I care. What this city needs to do is actually build a NEW sports venue.

Are you aware Portland -- unlike any other major city in the world that I know about -- has NEVER BUILT A FOOTBALL OR BASEBALL STADIUM, EVER, in its history? It's renovated a few. Hell, we've had more renovations than the late Joan Rivers did. The city actually staged a minor remodel last winter so a college wood-bat league team called the Pickles could play in Walker Stadium at Lents Park. But actually build a new ballpark? A real ballpark? Or a big-time football stadium?

Forget it!

The city of Hillsboro is packing people into its Ron Tonkin Field for Hops games. That venue is next door to a very attractive football stadium, too. Portland? Well, we're still tweaking what's now Providence Park, adding new seats in a venue where the concourses are tiny and the amount of rest rooms is inadequate. And yes, we're throwing a few replay screens into Memorial Coliseum.

I'd tell you that's not how progressive cities do things, but it comes down to one thing: Recycling is great for pop bottles but not necessarily for sports venues.

Welcome to Portland, where some things never change. And national treasures now come equipped with replay screens.