An effort to bring a Major League Baseball team to Portland passed an early milestone Thursday when backers said they’d settled on a site for a new ballpark: Terminal 2, the expansive marine cargo site in an industrial district northwest of the Fremont Bridge.
The group also released sketches that show a ballpark with a retractable roof and a gondola reminiscent of the Portland Aerial Tram.
But much remains unknown: the terms of the agreement between the Portland of Portland and the Portland Diamond Project for the property, what stadium backers would pay to use Terminal 2 and who’s agreed to foot the multibillion-dollar costs of building a stadium and bringing a team to Portland.
The transaction for the property would be structured as a long-term lease, with the Portland Diamond Project acting as master developer for the site, at 3556 N.W. Front Ave.
That means it would create a master plan for the site, but other developers could build ancillary projects, like the housing and commercial development the group has imagined going up next to the stadium.
The plan ultimately requires approval of the port’s governing commission, when the terms would be made public.
The announcement came days ahead of Major League Baseball’s winter meeting in Las Vegas, which Portland Diamond Project partners will attend to promote a Portland franchise.
“It’s kind of their State of the Union,” said Craig Cheek, the Portland Diamond Project’s president. “This allows us to hold meetings, be visible, connect with the commissioner.”
Port spokeswoman Melanie Mesaros said the agreement will allow the Diamond Project to determine whether Terminal 2 is a viable stadium location.
The terminal handles breakbulk cargo — large items like construction equipment unloaded piece by piece, rather than in bulk like grain or in containers like consumer goods.
But Mesaros said the terminal is lightly used because access is difficult on the Willamette River, making it difficult to compete with other terminals in the region that can handle the same goods. That includes Portland’s Terminal 6, on the Columbia River.
Still unclear is how the ownership group would pay for a site and its redevelopment.
The group has named some investors — including Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Grammy Award winner Ciara, who are married — and it would plan to tap up to $150 million in state-issued bonds that would be paid back with income taxes from team salaries.
Cheek, a former Nike executive, former state Sen. Jason Atkinson and former Trail Blazers announcer Mike Barrett are Portland Diamond Project’s managing partners.
The stadium will likely need millions more to complete but group leaders have declined to release further details.
Cheek said it could cost more than $1 billion to build the park, and perhaps $1 billion more acquire a franchise.
He said the group has strong commitments from investors to move forward without further public funding aside from the previously approved bonds, but he declined to say who those investors are.
The sketches, created by the architecture firms Populous of Kansas City and TVA Architects of Portland, show a stadium with views of Mount Hood, the Willamette River and the Fremont Bridge.
It would feature a retractable roof, which Cheek said would be different from those familiar to baseball fans. Advances in technology have allowed for lighter and translucent materials that would allow light into the park.
Also pictured is a stadium gondola. Cheek said fans could buy tickets to view a few innings of the game from the gondola, which would move out to the outfield and back.
“We want this to be the next best ballpark, the one that everyone is talking about,” Cheek said. “We think there’s so much about Portland that’s really showcased in this ballpark.”
He said the group is considering pursuing a LEED Platinum certification, a recognition of sustainable building practices, energy efficiency and water use that no other ballpark has achieved.
He also said the group hopes that, with its central location, it would be one of the most easily accessible stadiums in the league.
But the location identified poses transportation challenges. While it has freeway access from Interstate 405, it’s served by transit only through an infrequent bus route, and the site is more than a mile from MAX light rail.
And the site is zoned for industry, surrounded by warehouses and factories.
Cheek acknowledged planning challenges ahead, and he said his group would be meeting with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and city staffers from various bureaus Friday to start that work.
But getting those processes going now would be key to landing a team, through relocation or expansion, in coming years.
“There’s going to be a window of opportunity and we don’t know when it will open and close,” Cheek said. “I’d hate for us not to have a sense of urgency.”