With an alleged announcement about expansion on the near horizon, some of the remaining candidate cities have been making news in the last few days. In Portland, Merritt Paulson has reportedly reached a tenative agreement with city leaders on $60 million in loans to renovate PGE Park and build a new stadium for his AAA baseball team. In making the deal, Paulson has made the loans virtually risk free by agreeing to make rent payments even if the teams fold. At the end of the loan term, ownership of the stadiums remains with the City.
Remarkably, the loan package is still not guaranteed safe passage through the City Council. Some City money is still required, even with Paulson contributing 80% of the funds. A vote may go forward as early as March 11. Additional details of the Portland expansion bid can be found here and here.
Paulson is definitely putting his money on the line in this deal. Ultimately, this comes down to needing one more vote on the 5 member City Council. Two votes are confirmed for the franchise, but three others remain uncommitted. As supporters of the Portland bid, we think that the City should move forward. This is a much better deal than some other cities have secured and the City seems primed for a second major league franchise.
In Canada, the Globe and Mail is reporting that Vancouver will likely receive one of the two 2011 bids. The bid spearheaded by billionare Greg Kerfoot would follow the Sounders’ model, by moving a successful USL franchise into MLS. Kerfoot has supported Canadian soccer for years and has the dough to support a franchise. While the idea of a renovated BC Place is not ideal, its proximity to downtown and public transportation are ideal. The 24th Minute makes the case for BC Place here. We discussed the Vancouver bid here.
Amazingly, Jeffrey Cooper’s St. Louis bid seems to be lagging behind the Pacific Northwest. Despite an in place stadium deal, the League has repeatedly expressed worries about Cooper’s finances. With an announcement expected before the end of March, it appears that the Gateway City might find itself on the outside looking in: again.
As we have repeatedly stated, we strongly believe that the “mid size” model is a great one and both Portland and Vancover fit the bill. An MLS franchise will immediately become part of the sports landscape in those cities, wherease a St. Louis team would quickly fall to fourth in the sports pecking order. Add in St. Louis’ reputation as a baseball hotbed in the summer, and Portland and Vancouver may be the best choices .