When you have light rail connections nearby, the possibilities appear limitless to bolstering economic vitality. And while you’re at it, you might as well toss in something fun for the region too, such as a new baseball stadium.
That’s exactly the plan for the city of Milwaukie, Ore., located southeast of Portland’s downtown core. Milwaukie sits on a light rail connection currently under construction, the newest addition to the TriMet stable.
The Milwaukie City Council has already given staff a green light to explore the concept of acquiring eight acres of state-owned industrial land and then converting that land to house a new 4,000-seat ballpark to host a Single-A minor league baseball team.
Ever since Portland rebuilt its downtown PGE Park to suit the soccer-only measurements (football still works there, but no longer baseball) to appease the MLS expansion Portland Timbers, baseball got ejected from the Portland metro area, as the Triple-A Beavers moved to Tucson. Milwaukie wants to jump on the chance to fill the void.
But building a baseball stadium isn’t the only economic—and construction—revitalization the city has in mind for the area, just a half-mile from downtown Milwaukie. The site currently contains a historic 1938 building—a former Oregon Department of Transportation headquarters building—that the city hopes regional brewpub owners, the McMenamin brothers, will want to convert into a new pub and restaurant, a practice the company has become famous for.
The five-member Milwaukie City Council and Mayor Jeremy Ferguson all support the bid to bring business dollars into town on land currently not making the city any money. “I strongly support the idea of a baseball stadium in the location that we’re looking at right now,” says Ferguson.
In order to gain the site, the state’s DOT requires a replacement location. Already, a portion of the property has been pledged to TriMet to house the new light rail line, which would slide past the proposed stadium.
Portland-based Ankrom Moisan architecture has drawn up plans for the ballpark (complete with sky boxes), which can expand to hold Triple-A sized crowds if ever needed. The current plans have the ballpark and neighboring development costing the city $20 million to $30 million, which they hope to raise from a mix of public and private sources, all without raising local taxes.
If the plan continues on course, the public supporters want to have the property and commitment for a team next year, with baseball in Milwaukie for summer 2014. Supporters plan on luring a team from the Northwest League, which currently has teams nearby in both Salem and Eugene and also in eastern Washington in Yakima, the Tri-Cities and Spokane. Vancouver, B.C., Everett and Boise also host teams.
While Milwaukie looks at its options for attracting a team, Vancouver, Wash., has made no secret it covets the Yakima Bears for its city.
As the plans continue to take shape, Milwaukie officials remain active in working to secure an owner—and the investment potential they represent—and solidify financing options, even checking with Portland to see their desire to help out in the process.
While only a plan, this is one plan with plenty of traction. Maybe there will be baseball in the Portland area, even after all the PGE Park construction dust settles. And if there’s baseball, there will be construction crews needed to build a stadium.