The decision whether Portland gets a ballpark hinges on finding enough money. These are the 11 people who could get the cash—or stop the deal from happening.

By Rachel Monahan & Nigel Jaquiss

These 11 People Will Decide the Fate of a Portland Baseball Stadium

Craig Cheek

President and Managing Director, Portland Diamond Project

Cheek, 56, is the first in a trio of public faces who are pitching Portland on a baseball stadium. He’s a 26-year veteran of Nike Inc. who retired in 2016. He ran the sportswear giant’s operations in China and North America, and was most recently Nike’s liaison to professional sports leagues, including Major League Baseball.

“The thought of connecting the sport I love with the city I love, at the highest level of the game, intrigued and motivated me,” he tells WW. “I wake up every morning asking, ‘Why not us, and why not now?'”

Cheek’s ties to Nike might get him a meeting with big kahunas Phil and Penny Knight as he hunts for investors. (Cheek declined to discuss whether he’d even attempted to solicit their involvement.)

Jason Atkinson

Managing Partner, Portland Diamond Project

Atkinson served 14 years in the Oregon Legislature as a Republican from Central Point, representing Southern Oregon in both chambers. A onetime rising star, he ran for the GOP nomination for governor in 2006. A bizarre 2008 incident in which he was accidentally shot in the leg while working on a bicycle slowed him, and as a moderate, he increasingly fell out of step with his party. After leaving the Legislature in 2013, Atkinson, 47, produced a documentary about the Klamath region called A River Between Us. He’s kept an apartment in Portland for the past few years, pursuing projects outside of politics.

“I’m involved with PDP because I look at it as a legacy project for the state,” says Atkinson.

Mike Barrett

Managing Partner, Portland Diamond Project

He’s the best-known face fronting the baseball push. Barrett, 49, was the Portland Trail Blazers’ play-by-play man for 17 years, the last 13 of those on television, until the team fired him without explanation in 2016. Since then, Barrett has done advertising work for Bellagios Pizza and other local companies. He also worked with Atkinson on a TV pilot.

“We’ve shot three full episodes,” Barrett told the Portland Tribune last year. “They’re reality adventures that attempt to reach broken men. It may not go anywhere, but it’s been really fun doing it.”

Bob Thompson

Founder, TVA Architects

The Portland Diamond Project has announced Thompson will help design a Portland ballpark once the group purchases a site. His name lends credibility to the venture: He’s among the most prominent architects in Portland, known in sports circles for designing the Nike World Headquarters in 1987 and also the company’s more recent campus expansion in Beaverton. In 2008, he also designed Matthew Knight Arena for the University of Oregon, a 12,500-seat, $200 million project.

Julia Brim Edwards

Board Chairwoman, Portland Public Schools

Brim Edwards is in her first year as chairwoman of the Portland School Board. She’ll lead the board in responding to the request to buy Portland Public Schools’ main administrative building as the site for a new stadium. It’s the second time through this process for Brim Edwards, who was board chairwoman back in the early 2000s, when a different campaign to bring baseball to Portland eyed the site for a stadium. (PPS didn’t sell then.) Brim Edwards is known for pushing the school district to be more effective with its public dollars. There are few people better qualified to analyze the proposal and negotiate for the district. For the past 13 years, she’s worked at Nike. She currently oversees the corporation’s lobbyists, public relations and other company functions internationally.

Rukaiyah Adams

Chairwoman, Albina Vision

Adams’ day job is chief investment officer for Meyer Memorial Trust, one of the largest philanthropies in the state. But she plays a key role in the baseball conversation because she’s leading the Albina Vision, a group working to undo gentrification and bring African-Americans back to the Rose Quarter—right next to the site the Diamond Project is eyeing for a stadium. From the minute the Diamond Project announced its bid for school district headquarters, Adams threw cold water on the idea. Most recently, she told a Portland Business Journal breakfast:

“What I would like for them is to pursue one of the other locations and I could put my weight behind it. That site to me is just a no-go.”

Ted Wheeler

Mayor of Portland

The last time Portland saw a major push to get baseball, in 2003, Mayor Vera Katz was coaching the effort. Mayor Ted Wheeler isn’t. Instead, he’s pledged to work on other priorities, including housing. He took a meeting with the Diamond Project, and asked for advice from an ad hoc committee, including entrepreneur Stephen Green and sportswriter Dwight Jaynes. Wheeler won’t rule out the city making infrastructure investments like sidewalks and streets, but he isn’t signing on any time soon.

“This is too hypothetical at this point,” he says, “to have my full engagement.”

Tina Kotek

Oregon House Speaker

Kotek hasn’t been contacted by the Portland Diamond Project, but she’s not a fan. “The speaker believes there are higher priorities for public funding,” says Kotek’s spokeswoman, Megen Ickler, “such as ensuring an adequate supply of affordable housing and shelter for people experiencing homelessness.” Kotek joins Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury among powerful Democrats openly scoffing at the baseball pitch.

“If I was going to put hundreds of millions of taxpayer money into creating more construction jobs or attracting tourists to Portland, it wouldn’t be for a baseball stadium,” Kafoury says. “It would be for housing.”

Tim Boyle

CEO and Chairman, Columbia Sportswear

With public officials skeptical, the likely path to bringing an MLB franchise to Portland includes finding an ownership group of wealthy individuals, at least some of whom are bold-faced Oregon names. At the top of that list, of course, would be Nike co-founder Phil Knight. But not far behind him would be Boyle, 68, whose Columbia Sportswear shares are worth $2.1 billion. Boyle loves baseball.

“I’m a huge Mariners fan,” he tells WW.

But Boyle says he doubts the financial support exists locally to support a major league team.

Merritt Paulson

Owner, Portland Timbers and Thorns

In 2010, Paulson bought the Portland Timbers soccer squad and the Portland Beavers baseball team, then the AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres. When Major League Soccer told Paulson the Timbers could not share what is now Providence Park with minor league baseball, he proposed moving the Beavers to the site of Veterans Memorial Coliseum or to Lents Park. Neither option worked, so he sold the team and it moved to California. Paulson is once again a factor because his wildly popular Timbers and Thorns (both of which draw far bigger numbers than the Beavers did) overlap with Major League Baseball’s schedule—and also because he is wealthy enough to be a potential investor in an MLB team. Paulson says he’s not involved in the baseball effort, but declined to comment further.

Paul Allen

Owner, Portland Trail Blazers

Allen, 65, who made his fortune as a co-founder of Microsoft, bought the Blazers in 1988 for $70 million. In 1995, he covered the majority of the $262 million cost of building the Rose Garden arena, now called Moda Center. With a net worth Forbes pegs at $19.7 billion, Allen could easily buy an MLB franchise himself. (In addition to the Blazers, he already owns the Seattle Seahawks NFL franchise.) But Allen isn’t in the ownership group backing the baseball effort—and in the past, he’s quietly maneuvered to block baseball (and hockey) from competing with the Blazers for the scarce corporate dollars available for sponsorships, luxury boxes and high-value season tickets. A spokesman for Allen did not return calls seeking comment.