Stop with the Soccer Stadium Stupidity

Brian D. O'LearyCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2009

Fans of a new soccer stadium are the squeaky wheel nowadays in Portland.

While soccer is a good and decent sport and I see no reason why Portland wouldn’t support an MLS team, there is no need for our city government to finance stadia. The loud support, while enthusiastic and often well meaning, is not wise support.

The stated cost for this “public-private partnership” is $85 million. Purportedly, this “investment” will lead to 600 construction and 300 permanent jobs while the cost and jobs will be split between two stadia (with most of those “permanent” employment opportunities, however, to include slinging roasted peanuts, cotton candy, rainbow slushies, etc.).

Consider cost overruns become 20 percent (a rather conservative estimate compared with the last shining example of “public-private partnering” called the OHSU Tram and its 370 percent cost overrun). 

Take the 900 jobs in total: The average cost of getting the carpenter, iron worker, or peanut-slinger his job is well over $110,000. Three-hundred jobs supposedly remain permanent (although seasonal and low-wage) that amount to approximately $170,000 per hot dog vendor position created. I’m still unclear about how this is good for Portland.

If the oversight is to be captained by our righteous mayor—brilliant overseer of the Aerial Tram boondoggle—and he budgets similarly, the cost of creating a beer seller’s job at New Civic Stadium will encroach a half-million dollars! This is insanity and must stop right now.

Sure, the Paulsons say they will pay the money back, but why not go to a private lender if this really is such a good deal? It isn’t a good deal, and that’s the rub. No bank would finance it in its right mind, at least not so hastily. But for Hank, hastiness is a virtue. 

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While Merritt is his own man, we’ve seen his father—his money man—prefer to simply pass the buck on down the line. Such an approach is insidious and insulting.

Soccer should succeed in Portland even though specters of failed leagues with previous Timbers squads still haunt the Rose City. What, however, makes the MLS so different in the long run?

This fanciful league has a poor track record and a poor model for success. Portland wisely ditched the WNBA when it was discovered behind door No. 3 to be just a stinky goat.

Should the taxpayer end up shouldering the burden of the über-rich? No! It is neither wise or responsible. Neither is to trust the numbskulls in citywide office to pull their puppet strings in order to make these whimsical dreams reality.

My plea is “STOP!”  Stop with nonsensical spending in a crushed economy. Stop with the über-rich bilking the average guy. Stop with ideas that soccer, MLS in particular, is an economy or town-saver. 

These notions are foolish, multiplied by an unwise mayor and an incompetent Council.  Please, for the sake of everyone who loves Portland...Just stop already!

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