Tuesday, January 5, 2010

MLB Portland

Ten Changes over the Next Decade for Baseball

#3 MLB Expansion/Relocation to Portland, Oregon
During my senior year of college, several classmates and I worked on a group project that detailed a strategic plan for relocating the Oakland Athletics to Portland, Oregon. It was our opportunity to get creative and develop an idea that was plausible. The result was a comprehensive report that covered pretty much all of the areas of running a professional sports franchise including: sponsorships, marketing, baseball operations, etc. Here is the condensed version of why Major League Baseball belongs in Portland:

Currently, the Portland Beavers provide the city with their baseball entertainment playing in the AAA Pacific Coast League. With their stadium located downtown, accessible to public transportation, the city was thinking with foresight when they built the new stadium with the ability to expand the seating capacity and upgrade the facility if Major League Baseball came to calling. Getting the MLB to reach Portland is extremely well supported by their region. The city is headquarters for both Addidas and Nike. There are two very well done websites to support the idea that are linked below that show how much time and effort has gone into MLB Portland. Importantly, the people of Portland support their teams. The Trailblazers have been in the top ten in attendance the last three years and are currently fifth this season, selling above 95% of their seats. Including as high as 3rd in 2008-2009 when they sold out 102% of their seating capacity for the year. The interest in the Blazers points that adding another major professional sports team would be well supported. The Portland Timbers will be joining Major League Soccer in 2011, so I predict that by the end of the decade, Major League Baseball will be the next to expand to Portland.

Other benefits to having a team in Portland is that it will create better travel for teams that are going to play Seattle. Right now, Seattle travels the furthest of any team and its closest MLB competitors are Colorado and Oakland. By adding a team to Portland, a rivalry will hopefully be created in the Pacific Northwest and baseball would have the opportunity to expand its presence further into Oregon, Northern California, Idaho and Montana. Fans wouldn't have to drive 8 hours to see a baseball game anymore. Teams would be able to reduce travel time a bit by making a swing to play Portland and Seattle. There could even be a re-alignment of teams so that each division has 5 teams in it. (Houston to NL or AL West?)

I feel that rather than adding a new team and potentially creating the problem of having an odd number of teams, Baseball should relocate one of its teams to Portland. The obvious choice to me is the Oakland Athletics. The A's finished last in attendance in 2009, averaging around 17,000 fans each night. They play in a football stadium, which makes matters worse in that the percentage of seats sold was below 40%, so it looked even more barren. This was by far the lowest percentage across baseball. The A's were in talks of building a new stadium, but legal trouble and MLB market rules have dashed those hopes for now. An outdated stadium and low attendance are a bad combination for this team. Furthermore, across the bay in San Francisco, baseball flourishes. Oakland fans will still have the opportunity to see baseball if they so desire. The San Francisco market size would increase and Baseball would grow further into some of its unclaimed territories.

Moving baseball to Portland just makes sense.

For Further Reading:
http://www.oregonstadiumcampaign.com/
http://www.portlandbaseballgroup.com
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/hotstove06/columns/story?columnist=rogers_phil&id=2727901

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