John Canzano of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Portland Diamond Project may have caught a big break, with the announcement on Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Rays’ proposed ballpark in Tampa had unraveled.

By John Canzano


The group plotting to bring a Major League Baseball team to Portland has to operate with caution, and humility, and great care.

It’s come too far to screw this up now.

That’s why you won’t hear a word from the Portland Diamond Project about the terrific break they caught on Tuesday when Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg showed up to baseball’s Winter Meetings ticked off.

Sternberg announced that the proposed ballpark in Tampa had unraveled. He said no new ballpark would be built, and the Rays are stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027.

This is ideal for only one entity — Portland.

The Diamond Project has land rights. It has political support. It has the trust of commissioner Rob Manfred and is building equity with a growing group of potential sponsors and ticket buyers. But what it has needed all along is for a current MLB city to stumble and Tampa did fell flat on its face.

It would take 36 months to build the proposed 32,000-seat ballpark in the Terminal Two location that has been secured by the group. There’s growing speculation that some adjacent properties could also be purchased and developed as part of the project. And Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is on board.

Wheeler said on Twitter after the stadium announcement last month:

“A ballpark along the nw bank of the Willamette River would have a positive impact on our economy while shaping the next great PDX neighborhood.”

The hangups all along have centered around questions of opportunity and finances. Would Portland would be a better candidate for expansion or relocation? Also, does the group really have the resources to buy a team or pay an expansion fee?

The developments in Tampa answer both questions.

The Rays agreement with Tropicana Field would not be a stumbling block. The franchise can leave prior to 2027 with only having to pay off remaining debt on ballpark. In that scenario, the Portland Diamond Project could seemingly come into the equation as minority (local) ownership group and a developer of the ballpark and surrounding area. Sternberg could retain majority ownership and get a new, thriving market to develop.

Portland is a young city. It’s underserved. It has a tremendous growth curve. We’re long past the days when this city had to sell itself as a viable candidate for baseball.

It is.

The Portland Diamond Project representatives are at the Winter Meetings. You could almost feel the eyes shift from the Tampa announcement to Craig Cheek and his team as it went down. But anyone who has been paying attention knows they’ll stay in their lane, keep their heads down, and continue to meet with people.

The development on Tuesday is too big for the rest of us to ignore, though. Portland has been in a quiet staring contest with Tampa and Oakland, waiting to see what happens with their respective stadium proposals.

Tampa didn’t just blink, it just shut its eyes.

MLB would have a realignment issue caused in three seasons with the Rays now playing in the AL West. But that could be solved by moving Cleveland or Detroit to the American League East and shuffling Texas or Houston to the AL Central.

The team name?

Not Rays.

How about Portland Mavericks or Pioneers or Steelhead? Or maybe the Oregon Trail? That’s a debate for another day. But be clear, the development in Tampa with the Ybor City ballpark deal falling apart was a big break for Portland.

Time to start plotting.