The plan to bring Major League Baseball to Oregon is rounding the bases, and its founder believes this summer is going to be a grand slam.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the plan to build a Major League Baseball stadium in Portland has struck out. Or at least faced a rain delay.
The Portland Diamond Project, a group of investors with their hearts set on building a major league baseball stadium in Portland hasn’t made a peep since April, when they revealed design concepts for the proposed waterfront stadium.
Not that the Diamond Project has stayed out of the news. Recently a story on Oregonlive.com made it seem like the project was about to stumble. The article concerned the group’s exclusive access to its preferred building site, a 50-acre marine cargo terminal in Northwest Portland.
The exclusivity agreement with the Port of Portland is set to expire at month’s end, meaning the project could end up having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the spot reserved.
But according to Craig Cheek, founder and president of the Portland Diamond Project, the Port of Portland agreement isn’t a cause for concern. “We’ve had a lot of discussion with the port. Everyone still wants to help get this thing through,” he says.
According to Cheek, the Portland Diamond Project is engaged in a "city-led process to pour over the viability of the port site," meaning that state and local authorities can speed up or slow down the process, depending on their inclination. The site still faces zoning and transportation issues that need to be resolved before the build.
But it's important to note that although plans to build a stadium have been around for a while, the situation with the Port of Portland is only 10-weeks old. "We have the support of the city. We have support of the bureau heads." says Cheek. He adds talks with the city are "going very well."
Despite the Port of Portland’s deadline, Cheek believes the city, the business community and the public at large are warming up to the idea of a waterfront stadium.
“It would be the most transformative site as far as the city is concerned,” he says, referencing the need for development in the area. “You would create a new Northwest edge to the city. Our project would bring new life and a whole new district there."
A rendering of the Portland baseball stadium. Credit: Portland Diamond Project
The stadium would likely be a windfall for local businesses, and not just food and entertainment. The project could introduce a civilian ferry to make use of the waterway. Cheek has also floated the idea of a completely carless stadium, a welcome relief to Northwest Portland, which already faces monumental parking problems.
Another reason to believe the project is about to swing for the fences? It’s star-studded, ever-growing list of backers, including Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, his supermodel wife Ciara, former Chicago Cubs player Darwin Barney and Harvey Platt, retired CEO of Platt Electric. The project has raised $1.3 billion already, nearly half their $3 billion estimate.
On the local front, Olympia Provisions and Breakside Brewery have already tested new products at Diamond Project events, and the project’s swag is selling like hotcakes.
Though there has been much chatter from the dugout lately, the project isn’t going to be silent much longer. “We’re going to be very active in the business community over the summer,” says Cheek. “We’re going to be talking to businesses small, medium and large to get their support.”
But backing from the city and the business community are only two parts of a three-piece puzzle. Not wanting to repeat New York’s Amazon headquarters disaster, in which the e-commerce platform failed to garner broad public support for its new headquarters, Cheek says public support will be a critical element moving forward.
“We’ve encouraged fans to help us create a groundswell for [the stadium.] Thirty-three thousand people have already signed our petition, and we want to grow that number up to 50,000 in the coming weeks.”
Not only could the stadium be an economic grand slam, the project would also introduce Oregon’s sustainability values to major league sports. When completed, the new ballpark could be the most sustainable professional stadium in the country.
For reference, the greenest sports stadium in the nation holds gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. “We want our stadium to be the first one to reach platinum,” Cheek says.
As of now, the Diamond Project has its eye on the ball. The project’s summer marketing push is about to commence, and with a few MLB team’s futures up in the air, the project could be coming to a head at just the right moment.
But for all of his dreamy ambitions about revived waterfront, budding baseball culture and sustainability dreams, Cheek’s message to the business community is far more matter-of-fact.
“Portland is in competition with other places trying bring this kind of project to their city,” he says. “If we don’t jump on this, someone else will.”
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