Sports Fan: Could Portland support an MLB, NFL or NHL team?
Apr 25, 2014
By Jim Walker
Of the News-Register
Apparently, since the Oakland Athletics have been disgruntled with their stadium deal in the city of Oakland, they were searching for another city, another venue, and some felt that the team administration had feelers out for markets like Portland.
Some questioned the veracity of the rumors while some felt that, hey, if the A’s are looking to move, why not the Portland metro area? Others felt that even if the rumors were true, Oakland wouldn't look twice at Oregon's largest city with a 2012 population of 603,106. (Nearby Vancouver, Wash., had a population of 165,489 citizens in 2012.)
The fact is, of course, Oakland, home of the As since 1968, shortly after Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (now O.co Coliseum) opened, is a relatively small city, with a population of 400,740 in 2012. But close by is the greater San Francisco area and San Jose, which wants the A’s in the worst way. In fact, officials claim Oakland promised to move to San Jose before deciding to renew its lease at the coliseum, which led to the threat of an antitrust law suit filed by San Jose against MLB. The suit might go through and have a favorable outcome for San Jose, and it might not, but it's probably not a good route to go if you really want a Major League Baseball team to come your way.
Anyway, it appears that the Oakland baseball club will sign a 10-year deal for the coliseum, with a five-year lease plus an option for five more... if the club doesn't find a new venue after the first five years.
So much for the rumors that the A’s were even sniffing the air in Oregon, but, hey, it was fun while it lasted, listening to the sportswriters trying to write the story that never happened and probably never will. The truth is, while the Portland metro area can support the Blazers by filling the Moda Center, with its nearly 20,000 capacity, it might be very difficult to draw 20,000 fans to MLB baseball games on a regular basis. At 20,000 or fewer fans, that could lead to bankruptcy in a short period of time.
Instead, the A’s and other MLB teams like the A’s looking to move, would be wise to relocate to markets with populations of several million. Unfortunately for the restless and unhappy teams stuck in venues where they're not "appreciated" enough and are getting "raw" deals, most of those more attractive markets are already occupied by another franchise.
Perhaps the Portland metro area would be wiser to campaign for a National Hockey League team since the Winterhawks have had success in the Western Hockey League, drawing a faithful fan base year-after-year. However, the average attendance for Winterhawks games during the 2012-13 season was 6,687, and when franchises move up to the big time, the costs rise quickly.
So even supporting an NHL team might be out of the question for the near future. In fact, the city of Portland might be just the right size for an NBA team. Oh, whoops, the city already has the Blazers, right, and the fan base is loyal enough to buy out the Moda Center night after night.
For the time being, it's best to be satisfied with the one major league team the city can support and forget about the As or any effort to attract an NHL or NFL club to Portland. Sure, Green Bay, Wisc., is a small town when it comes to the NFL pecking order, with a population of only 104,000. But the Packers have a long history in Green Bay, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin's largest city at 594,000, is only a 100-mile drive. Real Packers fans will gladly drive 100 miles or more (Madison, Wisc., population 233,000, is just another 36 miles to travel) to watch their beloved team play.
All said, it's best to have a bird in the hand (the Blazers) versus the proverbial two in the bush (MLB, NHL, NFL... take your pick... or plug in your own professional franchise of choice).
If you have an idea for a column or feature story or a comment, please contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 503-687-1274.
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