Street Roots chimes in on baseball in Lents

Street Roots editorial coming out in the May 29 edition.

The city of Portland is pushing the idea of using $42 million – mostly from Portland Urban Renewal funds — to build a minor league baseball stadium in Lents. Bad idea.

The citizens of Portland already are on the hook for $30 million from the last stadium. How can the city justify spending another $42 million on another stadium? We can’t.

The Portland Beavers play 72 home games a year. Each game lasts two to four hours. That’s an average of about 216 hours a year. That equals about one full workweek a month for five months. And most of the jobs at the stadium are low-wage jobs. Hardly an investment in the local community. It’s a slap in the face to average Portlanders to serve a man who doesn’t even live here. Urban renewal investments need a better payoff for Portland than a baseball stadium.

The city of Portland is currently considering relaxing the 30 percent set aside policy for the Lents Urban Renewal District in order to fund the stadium.

Whether or not readers support baseball in Lents, taking the funds slated for housing for families and seniors does not make sense. Considering Portland’s long history of gentrification, this deal would almost certainly drive poor and working folk out of the neighborhood.

The new light rail that will help bolster east Portland will improve Lents and many neighborhoods that traditionally have not been prioritized by Portland’s elite. Lents has the chance to become one of Portland’s coolest neighborhoods – much like the University/Portsmouth, Concordia and Mississippi neighborhoods in North and Northeast. If the Beavers move to Lents, the stadium will actually become a symbol of what is wrong with the neighborhood.

If we are investing public funds in Lents and surrounding neighborhoods, we should be investing in local affordable-housing efforts, small business start ups and improvements. Helping attract a grocery store such as New Seasons, for example, would do more in the short- and long-term for the neighborhood than a baseball stadium.

Street Roots is not against baseball being in our region. Possibly our neighbors in Vancouver or Beaverton would benefit from such a deal. We just can’t see spending $42 million on something that doesn’t pay off and isn’t really wanted by the majority of Portlanders.

Street Roots supports much of the great work that the city of Portland, the Portland Development Commission and other interest groups have done to make Portland a livable city. Saying that, we also know that the same engine that has created a livable city for some has affected poor folks and minorities over the years in a negative way. We can’t let the latter happen again, especially in a time when Portland needs long-term sustainable jobs and innovative ideas to lead us out of the economic downturn we all find ourselves in. Baseball in Lents is not one of them.

4 responses to “Street Roots chimes in on baseball in Lents

  1. John Mulvey

    Thanks for covering this issue. I had a couple of corrections, though.

    First, although the details have not been released yet, the amount of public money going into this project will greatly exceed $42 million.

    That figure represents the amount to be spent from Lents urban renewal funds –and in fact seems to have already grown by a couple of million.

    There may also public money coming from the state. (Yes, the same state that’s cutting billions from social services, police, education and everything else.) This bill is HB 2531 and is being pushed hard by Tobias Read and Dave Hunt, both “progressive” democrats who don’t come from Portland.

    There is also a large amount of money probably coming from something called the Spectator Fund, which is the fund created when the Rose Garden was built. It’s the mechanism by which the city borrows against their share of tickets and parking at the Rose Garden, PGE Park and (now) the new baseball stadium.

    Using the Spectator Fund is probably the least objectionable part of the funding, but it should be noted that when it was created the intent was to pay off the Rose Garden, at which point the revenues from parking and ticket sales would start going back to the city’s general fund. This deal will postpone that point for several decades.

    There’s also still the possibility of the city creating another urban renewal area in the west side of downtown, and getting some additional money that way.

    So the combined public costs for the two projects would likely come in at something more like $75 to $80 million –not counting the loss of future revenues to Multnomah County and Portland Public Schools from any new URA created.

    Yet throughout this whole process, one theme repeated over and over is that the project won’t impact any basic services. I’ve even been called “spectacularly uninformed” for challenging that assertion.

    Perhaps I’m just stupid. All I know is my committee will meet sometime soon to decide what to eliminate from the Lents URA budget in order to pay for the stadium, and some of the things on the table are grants and loans to small businesses, neighborhood pedestrian safety improvements, Johnson Creek flood repairs and loans to first-time homebuyers.

    Uninformed as I may be, these seem pretty “basic” to me.

    -John Mulvey
    Lents Urban Renewal Advisory Committee

  2. Thank you for chiming in John. It bring up some excellent and disturbing points.

    Please keep us informed on what the committee decides.

    -Israel Bayer

  3. Pingback: Is Seattle kicking Portland’s booty? « For those who can’t afford free speech

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