It is done...almost.
The Portland City Council needs to put its final stamp of approval on the Paulson Plan on Wednesday at 9:30 am, then the MLS has to go through the formality of granting the Rose City a franchise on or about March 19, then it should really be done.
Two prominent yellow-bellies on the Council, Commissioner Randy Leonard and Mayor Sam Adams, rolled-over for Paulson this morning by agreeing to a $129 million deal to build a baseball stadium and to soccerize/renovate the current multi-use Civic Stadium/PGE Park (not insignificant in that it is where the Triple-A Beavers have also called home for the better part of the last 60 years).
The other 4th Avenue poltroons are keeping nice for the time being, though they'll be just as much to blame—or to praise, if Providence shines bright upon them—when it all goes down.
Glossed over in much of the coverage is the price-tag jumping from $85 million to $129 million...indeed more than the "conservative 20 percent" I warned about last week. The deal was not a good one at $85 million and it certainly stinks at $129 million.
Merritt Paulson has been up front during his quest, as much as I can tell, and I can't fault him for that. Appearing Saturday evening on (Portland Channel 8) KGW's Straight Talk, he made a decent case for his proposal and maintained a relatively cool head throughout the debate show.
He knows how the game is played, is by all accounts a smart man, and is keenly aware of how he can use the taxpayers of Portland to his advantage by taking on little risk in exchange for much reward. However, even if widely used by other "developers," such tactics are shameful, no matter who or what the man is.
Granted, Paulson is out of pocket roughly a $40 million fee if the Major League Soccer brass decide to grant him and the Portland Timbers a franchise in their league. That is not chump-change in my opinion.
Though all signs point to the taxpayers actually bearing the cost burden in one way or another, he claims, "[t]his plan creates hundreds of jobs, protects taxpayers from risk and brings even better soccer and baseball to Portland and Oregon." Jobs, yes—though many temporary and low-wage. Better soccer, yes. Status quo baseball.
Somewhat redeeming is Paulson's claim that cost overruns will be financed independent of city government. At least this removes the prospect of OHSU Aerial Tram Redux...or at least for the time being.
The most foolish thing uttered today was by Mayor Adams, who proclaimed, "[t]o become the most sustainable economy in the world, Portland must build its international profile. And the language the world speaks most is the language of fútbol (Spanish for soccer)." Not to get too deep, but not only is this foolish, it is wrong. Are we to heed Valiant Sam's call and become one globalized state?
If so, get out of the way, Sam, your days are numbered anyhow. If not, and we are to remain a strong America and recapture the strength of the Oregon and Portland spirit—ironically built on the back of Big Timber—then the language we speak is football, baseball, basketball, and (though some would disagree) ice hockey. Soccer is but mere dialect.
The MLS is a farce compared to the Big 4 and to the top European soccer leagues, and does nothing significantly to grow our "international profile." This is silly talk, plain-as-day.
However, and a relatively uplifting notion, the MLS should do moderately well in Portland at the very least, notwithstanding the mess which has occured by trying to get a club in the first place. There exists a solid and rabid fan base driving support for Timbers FC. Others will follow.
The seeds of discontent, though, may have been sown with part of the financing package, passed down to the ticket-holders in the form of a roughly seven percent tax, massaged by language into a just a measly ol' "surcharge." Now, however, in a downward-trending economy, a few bucks more per ticket might mean that—not only does the family of four not go to the game—dad stays home, as well.
The decision-making in this debacle has been unacceptable, chiefly as a result of being imprudent. Stadia financing money will largely come from voiceless people who do not agree with the package and/or are coerced—wittingly or not—into paying for something that is not necessary, but mandated by a second or third-rate sports league for a minor upgrade in Portland's athletic scene.
If the Civic Stadium deal wasn't botched the last time around...If Merritt wasn't the son of Hank...If we had NFL or MLB already...If soccer wasn't such a renowned sport worldwide...would this be an issue at all in the first place?
Consider the Scottish: If "ifs" and "ands" were pots and pans, we would be washing up forever.
Tell Madge to get the Palmolive ready. Are soft hands really the best we can do?