Over the last few weeks, you may have heard the news that the Oakland Athletics are possibly looking for a new place to call home. They have been fighting with the city of Oakland for years now, and it seems like now might finally be the time that they get set to leave.
There has been a long-documented history of Oakland and the A’s struggles and building a new stadium. The current joint, the Oakland Coliseum, is an absolute dump, truly. You should also remember that the Raiders used to play at this same stadium and had the same issues that the Athletics are now having and went their separate way to play in Las Vegas.
A few years back, the A’s actually approached the city of Oakland and asked to pay the remaining $135 million on the stadium to buy it outright. It sounded like there was a deal, the city council was on board, and the Athletics would win a long-fought battle.
But that fell through the cracks, something that people probably often say when they actually attend a game at the Coliseum. So then the A’s came to the city with a beautiful plan for a ballpark to be built at the Howard Terminal on the water. It was a green-scape project meant to be a ballpark inside a ballpark, and it is truly an insanely cool-looking stadium that is unique and environmentally friendly. The city council was fully on board, and the governor of California even signed a bill to streamline the project. But with COVID-19, that project struck out.
Rob Manfred, baseball’s commissioner, has stepped in, and he has informed the A’s that their best route moving forward is to seek new places for the club to move. Of course, as with any expansion ideas over the last few decades, a hot name thrown around is Portland. For anyone that loves baseball and lives in Portland, and trust me, there are a lot of those people, watch The Battered Bastards of Baseball. This is a dream scenario.
In fact, there is even a coalition of people called the Portland Diamond Project. You might even know one of the co-owners of the project fairly well. His name is Russell Wilson, and he plays quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. He, and his wife Ciara, are two of the four most powerful people of the Portland Diamond Project. It’s a revolutionary idea for the city, and honestly, it all looks awe-inspiring. On their website, their mission is as follows:
“Bringing MLB and a new ballpark to Portland is a major undertaking. Our effort is rooted in listening to business and community leaders, building great partnerships and working together to make Portland better with Baseball.”
When Major League Baseball considers cities to expand to, many criteria go into the decision. Seeing this initiative from Portland with stadium renderings and a mission already in place is probably very impressive to Major League Baseball. But that still doesn’t mean it will or should happen.
“It’s exceptionally complicated, it would be exceptionally complicated for any market,” said Maury Brown, a Portlander who is an expert on the business of baseball and writes as a senior contributor for Forbes.
But I think Portland has so much to offer the league, and an existing fan base and structure are already in place. The fact that they already have a leadership board and big names who are ready to get behind this idea are impressive. There are stadium renderings that have already been released and a potential logo that has been drawn up. The city has already offered a lot, and the Diamond Project should be an encouraging sign, but certainly, more goes into this decision.
From Major League Baseball’s standpoint, I would think they’d love to at least keep the team in the Northwest. The only baseball team that extends beyond California at this point are the Mariners, who somehow have a strong fan base despite playing terribly over the better part of two decades. Portland would bring a new wave of fans to the game and expand to a whole new region. Kids in Oregon have never had a hometown team to root for, and this would open the game up to a whole new generation there. Oregon State baseball has consistently been one of the top college teams in the nation, and to couple that with a major league team in the same state would really be something.
Of course, we have to acknowledge that other cities will be on the shortlist if the team really does leave Oakland, and one city that makes logical sense is Las Vegas. But the Vegas sports market is becoming overcrowded with the Raiders, Golden Knights, and Aces. The NBA is looking to expand, and we have to assume Vegas is also a top option. The MLB should be wary about moving their team to a city that may not show the interest that a town like Portland would. Outside of the Blazers, it’s a city that is starved for a sports franchise and would have a massive fan base loyal from April through October.
There is already a $2 billion commitment from the Diamond Project, and for my money, that tells me that this team will be well taken care of and the operations will be far better than that of Oaklands. Portland currently has the best sales pitch, and if it comes down to Vegas and there, I am rooting for the bigger market with the fans who have been dying for a baseball franchise for all these years.