As the All-Star festivities wind down, and Major League Baseball returns to normal, the question returns to the Portland area: can we support a franchise? Opportunities to acquire one are rare, with the last one occurring in 2005 with the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals).
Baseball was a part of Portland since 1903 with the Portland Beavers, only taking breaks in 1972 (6 years) and 1993 (8 years). Even if it was only minor-league baseball, it was still part of the fabric of Portland.
Then Merritt Paulson decided that the Beavers had to go to make way for Major League Soccer and a retrofitted PGE Park (now Jeld-Wen Field). A stadium idea where the current Memorial Coliseum stands was proposed, but soundly rejected by the people. New stadium ideas were proposed in Lents, Beaverton, and Vancouver, but were rejected by one side or the other. Paulson’s insistence that the city fund the stadium, as well as finish renovations on the current park, drove the city to stop caring altogether.
Now the Portland Beavers are the Tucson Padres, the city has soccer, and baseball is once again a memory.
Watching the Beavers only draw an average of 3,000 people a game, I wonder if the city even wants baseball. If they do, it would only be at a professional level. The Tampa Bay Rays could use a new stadium, and fans that actually want to be there more than just opening day and when the Red Sox and Yankees visit. Expansion to 32 Major League teams would also solve the current scheduling issue, where teams are forced to play interleague games on the first and last weeks of the season, something owners would rather avoid.
Finding a place to put the team, especially in the current economy, would be difficult. Fan turnout would not even be guaranteed. Sure everyone comes to the games during the first couple years. Even the Rays had a large section of their dome of doom filled during their initial years. However, fans are fickle creatures and unless a winning team is constantly put on the field (which is the first couple years of a team requires either extreme luck or a large back account), fans tend to stay away. Professional sports are expensive, and a new team would not have the history Portland has with say, the Blazers.
It is a nice thought to return baseball to Portland. Driving on Burnside, and seeing the field the Beavers used to play on is a strange feeling. Now is not the time. Hopefully one day, baseball will be back.