The Seattle Mariners don’t have a true rival. While any team in the AL West can be considered a divisional rival, the Mariners have long lacked that Red Sox/Yankees, Giants/Dodgers rival that so many teams have.
The Seattle Seahawks have the San Francisco 49’ers, the Sonics had the Portland Trail Blazers. The Seattle Sounders have the Portland Timbers. MLB has been trying to sell fans – via scheduling – the San Diego Padres as the team’s main rival. But it was more a rivalry of Triple-A teams back when the Tacoma Rainiers were rivals of the Padres’ former Triple-A club the Portland Beavers.
Well, that could all change in 2016. How about a return to a time where those Portland Beavers were bitter rivals against the Seattle Rainiers/Angels/Indians in one of the best rivalries in professional baseball? How does the Portland Athletics sound to you?
It could happen. The Oakland Athletics ownership is in desperate need of a ballpark solution. The O.co is old and dilapidated – and that’s putting it nicely. When the agreement in place ends in 2015, the team needs to find a new home. A group in Portland, Oregon is looking to make sure that the home is in Portland.
Bringing MLB to Portland is not a new idea. I was a part of the push to bring the Montreal Expos to Portland before the inevitably ended up as the Washington Nationals. Portland is the largest metro-area without an MLB team, bigger than Tampa, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
There is a large fan base and a rich history of baseball in Portland. The Portland Beavers were in existence in some form or another for most of the 1900’s. In fact, when the Beavers left in 2010 – they were kicked out of their home by the incoming MLS incarnation of the Timbers – it marked the first time since 1903 that there wasn’t some level of professional baseball being played in the Rose City.
I was living in Portland at the time. One of the contributing factors in our decision to move back to my hometown of Salem, Oregon was the fact that they had a professional baseball team there (the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Class-A Short Season affiliate of the Giants).
So how real of a possibility is this?
It sounds very real. The A’s need a stadium solution. They don’t have the support of the City of Oakland to build a new stadium there. The Giants have told the A’s they can’t have San Jose and the Portland group has all but already built the stadium.
The group, includes Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, president of Portland-based Sports Management Worldwide, and Portland architect Barry Smith, who has a vision of a new riverside ballpark next to the Moda Center (formerly the Rose Garden) on the east bank of the Willamette.
Right where I said it should go ten years ago when….oh never mind, no one listens to me.
While the new ballpark is built, the A’s could play at the Hillsboro home of the Hops, a Single-A short season affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The stadium in Hillsboro – a suburb west of Portland – holds 4,500 fans, but could be expanded to hold 15-20K while the new ballpark is being built. As for that ballpark, MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby pointed out in January:
Portland’s backers of baseball have the blueprint for a state-of-the-art baseball-only stadium, which would have a retractable roof and seat 35,000. They have community support, including that of the current city administration. A site, endorsed by mayor Charlie Hales, has been chosen, next to Memorial Coliseum and the new Rose Garden, home of the NBA’s Trail Blazers.
“We have the land and the infrastructure,” said architect Barry Smith.
The supporters believe they can find an ownership group, possibly a major Japanese firm, along the lines of Nintendo, which owns the Seattle Mariners.
The City of Portland has also looked into the possibility of acquiring an NFL franchise. The target there? Of course, the Oakland Raiders, who are dealing with the same conditions at O.co Coliseum as the Athletics.
What do you think Mariners fans? Do you want Portland to get a team to create a more natural rival within the division? Do you like the fact that the Mariners are alone on an island out here in the Pacific NW? Or are you of the opinion like my wife, who feels if there is a way Portland will mess it up, they will?
Share your thoughts with us.