<
>

Portland prepared for next team that moves

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland officials forged ahead Thursday
with a detailed plan to finance a $350 million ballpark, even
though the city's chances of landing the Montreal Expos appear to be remote.

Baseball officials met this week with groups from Washington and
Northern Virginia, the leading candidates in the bidding for the
Expos. Baseball also intends to meet with groups from Las Vegas and
Norfolk, Va.

Portland is pushing ahead, hoping to be in a better position for
the next major league team that explores a move.

"Without this we were nowhere. With this, we're now more so in
it than ever before," said David Kahn, head of the Oregon Baseball
Campaign and special adviser to the mayor on baseball.

Under Portland's plan, the bulk of the stadium financing would
come from Oregon legislation enacted last year, which allows $115
million in income taxes paid by the future baseball players and
other team personnel to be used to offset the cost of the stadium.

Also, businesses within walking distance of the ballpark would
pay a yearly licensing fee and a percentage of their gross receipts
for an estimated $56 million. The team's lease would bring in $12
million, ticket sales $85 million and concessions and merchandise
taxes another $29 million.

Charter seating was expected to bring in $25 million more.

The plan for the 38,000-seat, 975,000-square-foot stadium is
only expected to be set in motion once a major league franchise
agrees to move to Portland.

"The stadium happens when a team happens -- and only when a team
happens," said David Logsdon, the city's spectator facilities
manager.

Another crucial piece -- an owner for a Portland team -- also
would have to fall into place. Kahn said Thursday that a potential
owner had expressed interest, but would not comment on the person's
identity.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, did not
immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Kahn suggested that if the Expos go to Washington D.C., that
likely knocks out Northern Virginia and possibly also Norfolk for
the next team to relocate.

The Oakland Athletics, the Florida Marlins and the Minnesota Twins have sought ballparks from their own communities and if they
don't get them, may explore potential moves.

Portland City Commissioner Jim Francesconi, who is running to
become mayor of Portland when Vera Katz steps down at the end of
the year, criticized the financing plan, saying it will prove a
fiscal burden.

"I love baseball, but I don't like this proposal. At a time
when so many are out of work, we cannot ask taxpayers to bear the
majority risk for a stadium project," he said in a statement.