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Portland's stadium project moves forward
by Ridge Mahoney, February 4th, 2010 6:45AM
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[MLS] He still needs to find a home for his baseball team, so despite obtaining formal approval by the Portland City Council to renovate PGE Park, Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson still has some work to do. But his push to upgrade the Timbers from Division II status to major league for the 2011 season is on track. Nearly two weeks after Paulson and the council concluded discussions that produced an agreement for a public-private partnership, the $31 million deal received sanction from the city council Wednesday in a 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted against the deal. Mayor Sam Adams and commissioners Nick Fish, Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman all voted for it, ending nearly a year of discussions and impasses. Community members objected to another renovation - the second in the last nine years for a facility opened in 1926 - and the costs that could be better spent on city services and improvements.

A major sticking point had been Paulson's reluctance to personally guarantee the work would be finished if his company, Peregrine LLC, failed to do so. Once Paulson and his father, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, provided a guarantee, the city council approved the deal in principle and allowed renovations to begin. They have also guaranteed operating revenues for 25 years and that the team will play in Portland during that time.

PGE Park will be converted into a 20,000-seat facility, with enough room for 4,000 additional seats. It will host Portland State football games and other events in addition to MLS and exhibition matches. Work will be suspended for the baseball season that runs from early spring to late summer, and resume once the season is finished.

To finance the renovation, the Paulsons will pay $8 million directly and make a $11.1 construction loan - funded by ticket sales -- to the city through its Spectator Facilities Fund. The city's share of $11.9 million will be generated by bond sales and use of the spectators fund.

PGE Park hosted a U.S.-Costa Rica World Cup qualifier in 1997 and Women's World Cup matches in 1999 and 2003. As part of the renovation, the field will be shifted to better utilize space created by removal of the baseball dugouts. More than 1,000 club seats will be installed on the stadium's east side as well as a restaurant and a sports rehabilitation clinic, and the restroom and concession facilities are to be expanded and upgraded.

Paulson's baseball team, the Beavers, will be without a home once the baseball season is over. Three possible sites have been proposed and rejected. Yet come the spring of 2011, PGE Park is supposed to be ready for MLS.



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