Wednesday, May 20, 2009

MLS To Portland Soon To Become MLS to Montreal?

I know MLS announced its intent to expand the league to include a Portland Timbers club back in March, but I keep getting this nagging feeling that this deal is far from being completed and looking more likely to fall apart than to come together, which may lead to the MLS going to Montreal instead of Portland. This may just be the pessimist in me or maybe I'm following this a bit too closely, but it is my suspicion at this time.


Well, let me explain, but bear with me because it's long and convoluted.

Let me get the bullet point summary done first and then explain later.

  • No stadium deal in place.
  • MLS is still talking to Montreal.
  • The Portland Mayor and MLS supporter-in-chief is still embroiled in a scandal.


It just so happened to leak this weekend that the MLS and the Montreal group the league unceremoniously dropped during the preliminary stages of the expansion bids for deigning to challenge the expansion fee and trying to negotiate it are still discussing expansion. Oh and don't forget, it has slipped that Paulson is only paying a $35M expansion fee instead of the $40M fee that was set in stone by MLS.

I know that MLS has talked about further expansion since this current round of expansion, but I think that is more PR spin to make the league look good than it is a reality for two reasons. First, the player pool isn't big enough to field quality teams for all clubs. Second, the economy.


There still isn't a stadium deal in place. The Timbers and MLS want the current stadium to be soccer specific, which will require roughly $30M in upgrades. This would also necessitate the AAA Beavers baseball team to be moved. The rub is there is no stadium right now for the team in Portland. Building a new baseball stadium will cost roughly $40M-$60M depending on the situs.

No agreement has been reached on the location of the baseball stadium. The city and the Timbers originally wanted to build it in the Rose Quarter which houses the current NBA team facility, the Rose Garden, and the old home for the Trailblazers as well, Memorial Coliseum. The Rose Quarter is in the city core so it is a very enticing area. The plan was to tear down the old home and build a minor league baseball park. However, that plan went up in smoke when veterans and architects objected. Who knew architects were so powerful?

Now the plan is back to square one, which is building a ballpark out in SE Portland...a long way from the city core and certainly not as enticing. Merritt Paulson has also stated if the stadium is built out there his current agreement on guarantees of revenue to repay the bonds that will be issued to pay for the projects will be off the table.

One of the big selling points of the original agreement were the guarantees and commitments of Paulson on revenue and cost overruns. These no longer exist since the Rose Quarter deal is off the table.

I'm riffing off of the top of my head right now, but I believe that essentially leaves Portland with Paulson paying the $35M-$40M expansion fee and the rest on the City of Portland. I'm not clear on this, but Paulson may still be willing to guarantee revenue and cost overruns on the potential Timbers home, but not on any baseball related venture if the stadium is placed elsewhere.

I can tell you right now, given the history of public projects in the City of Portland, that deal will not fly whatsoever. Mr. Paulson is going to have to put up more than that or give up his baseball franchise.


Mayor Sam Adams of Portland is still embroiled a sex scandal. The Mayor has been the supporter-in-chief for the MLS bid, but this scandal has really weighed him down. The vote to approve the initial agreement was only 3-2 and it was a tenuous vote. The scandal will no doubt affect future votes on potential agreements as well as the Mayor's political power has taken a hit.

The short story of this scandal is that the Mayor had a sexual relation with a young man while he was just a City Councilor. The age at the time the sexual relationship began is in question because the Mayor met the boy when he was only seventeen but he turned eighteen within a few months of the initial meeting. Moreover, the Mayor lied about the relationship during his mayoral campaign.

The Oregon Attorney General is investigating and a report is due soon. The rumors are that it will be released very shortly and that it is a matter of when, not if, the mayor will resign. That said, it's just a rumor about the import of the report. But, there is already a recall campaign against the mayor that will certainly be stoked even more by this report regardless of its content.


This last bit probably won't have too much impact on the MLS bid, but Oregonian sports columnist just wrote a little hit piece on the Timbers Army, the die-hard supports of the Timbers. He chided them for being vulgar and drunk and not helping the club selling "family friendly" entertainment. Nothing groundbreaking, but certainly not helpful in selling the deal.


Wow, I just wrote a ton, but what does it all mean? I don't know yet, but my gut has been telling me for a while that this deal is going to fall apart. I hate that because I want an MLS club in my town, but the politics and the money don't work in this deal right now. You might be able to get by without one of those working, but both? I don't see it happening.

I give the bid a 40% chance of succeeding at this time. I'm a terrible prognosticator, which is why I don't gamble (that and I'm cheap), but it just feels like the foundation is beyond repair at this point. I hope I'm wrong.


EbullientFatalist said...

Damn shame. What with Vancouver getting a club, the NW would've been a wonderful sell for the league.

aron said...

As a Sounders Fan I think it would be a tragedy if Portland was not awarded their MLS franchise. While I generally like the city of Montreal, if they ended up taking the spot I would probably always resent them a bit.

Hoping to destroy Portland at least twice a year starting on 2011!

Timbers suck!
F*ck Portland!


Sean said...

Did you even read that "hit piece"? It was an open letter from a family that went to a game, not a letter written by the columnist.

Pay attention.

The Fan's Attic said...

I read it and I am dubious of its legitimacy and of the legitimacy of the complaints, but the fact that the columnist decided to bring it into the discussion makes it a hit piece at Timbers fans in my mind.