As I’m sure you’ve read, the never-ending saga to relocate the Portland Beavers out of PGE Park now has city officials unable to decide how exactly they want to spend tax dollars. Whether it’s Lents Park, the site currently occupied by the Memorial Coliseum, or who knows where else, the pols can’t make up their mind. Which of course leaves would-be MLS owner Merritt Paulson still waiting for a new home.
It certainly appears clear that they’re going to go ahead with their plan to convert (at taxpayer expense) the recently-renovated (at taxpayer expense, and still not fully paid for) PGE Park to a soccer-only facility, especially now since they have the Oregon House’s blessing to proceed.
Let’s make a few things clear. I believe in the idea of urban renewal. I believe that investing taxpayer money into improving the city’s infrastructure is a good thing.
I enjoy watching the Beavers. I love watching baseball at all levels, and I appreciate there’s a team in Portland. And while I may not appreciate soccer as much, I certainly understand the desire of fans to bring a bigger franchise to the city — that’s a good thing.
But what I don’t believe in is using taxpayer money to fund such a private venture with such a narrow demographic. Let’s be serious. It’s not like we’re talking MLB, or the NFL, or even the NHL for that matter. We’re talking about a sport that lags far behind the big three — and we’re talking about a fairly sizable public investment in it.
What it comes down to is this. Sure, bring MLS to Portland. But Merritt Paulson needs to make sure he pays for all of it and doesn’t resort to corporate welfare in order to do it. If it’s such a sure-fire investment, then surely he, successful businessman that he is, can afford to do this on his own. If not, then find some private investors and sell them on the plan.
The fact of the matter is that publicly-funded sports stadia are almost overwhelmingly a lose-lose for a city’s taxpayers. Just ask the Phoenix Coyotes or the Indianapolis Colts, among many others. Given the tremendous risk of these investments, it’s absolutely ludicrous for Merritt Paulson to even think of tapping into the city’s funds for his pet projects.