portland fire

Capitalism abounds! What's PDX due for next

Pandemic aside, Portland has opportunities for more pro teams
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

What’s the next expansion franchise in Portland?

The whole world might seem to have paused for the day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, but now that Election Day has passed, regardless of the vote-counting fallout, it’s time to look forward to the future of sports in Portland. In particular, the possibilities of an expansion franchise in one or more pro leagues. So, we’re taking a look at three possibilities and asking the public to vent its opinions on them: Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League or Women’s National Basketball Association.

Which one is most likely to reach Portland in the next decade?

It might seem a bit outlandish to consider this in the time of a pandemic when crowds aren’t even allowed in the state, but capitalism marches on regardless of the beat of public concerns. People with money will always be looking at ways to make more money, and Portland is a continually growing market with money for things like sporting events.

Here’s the logic behind the three:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Portland has been in the Triple A business before for decades, but it’s been more than a decade since Merritt Paulson bailed on the Beavers and focused on the Timbers, selling the baseball team at the same time as getting the soccer franchise to the Major League Soccer level. As Portland can brand itself as Soccer City, USA, and sell out Providence Park for every game - even the women’s team, the Thorns, can sell out the stadium - it seems like a good move.

But, Portland dreamers won’t give up on baseball, and have a plan for a stadium mapped out by the Portland Diamond Project. The stadium would be located just North of the Fremont Bridge, and potentially be a cornerstone for new development in what is now an industrial area.

But, getting a team to the Rose City would require MLB to expand, or a franchise to move, and neither seems like a sure bet in the near future. The Oakland A’s might be the best option, playing in an aged stadium before small crowds, but the owners do not seem interested in any movement like the football Raiders just accomplished. If the A’s were to move, they might follow the Raiders to Las Vegas, anyway.

Still, Portland can promote it gets less rain during the season than Detroit or Minneapolis, which have open-air stadiums. And, the city has a natural rival in Seattle just three hours North, and is already on the map with the Blazers and Timbers/Thorns and Nike.

Rumors of MLB expansion flow through social media consistently, but getting a stadium built would be a major task, one Paulson can reflect on as a disaster having gotten one lined up for Beaverton and then replacing the Memorial Coliseum only to get significant negative public response.

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

Portland has a long history of hockey support, from the Buckaroos of the 1960s and ‘70s to the Winterhawks of the past four decades. 

The Hawks, who divide their home schedule between the Coliseum and Moda Center, are annually in the top five for attendance in the Western Hockey League.

There are a pair of key factors working against the NHL in Portland: the league has already expanded to 32 teams with the addition of Seattle, set to begin play in 2021, and there is no ownership group that has publicly expressed interest in bringing team here. 

Having Seattle available as a natural rival is a plus for any team thinking about relocating, and that would likely be the Phoenix-based Arizona Coyotes, who have lost money for now decades, having gone bankrupt in 2009. But, after numerous sales, the team still is housed in Phoenix, and the league seems devoted to keep it there.

WOMEN’S NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

Portland would seem like a great spot for the WNBA to expand as it has experience in the league, an arena to play in, and women’s sports are on a definite upswing through the NWSL and even the WNBA itself. Basically, all the team would need is an owner.

Finding an owner during the pandemic might be a challenge, especially in light of the hardcore restrictions placed on public arenas keeping crowds not only down, but non-existent. The league has long been viewed as a money-loser, but recent info shows otherwise. In fact, the league players association demanded a bigger cut of league revenue in the past year, and got it, moving from somewhere near 25 percent of the estimated $60 million brought in by its 13 teams, to close to 50 percent.

Portland has a solid support base for the NWSL Thorns, averaging more than 20,000 fans per game in 2019. And, the college programs in Eugene and Corvallis were among the top 10 in average attendance from among Div. I schools in 2019-20.

The NWSL is something of a bellweather for making this team happen, as it is expanding to Louisville and the Los Angeles in the next two years - the LA franchise being financed by a group of female actors. With France’s OL Olympique having purchased the team in Seattle last year, there’s an international feel being developed within the league.

A group of actors might very well view Portland as another city to make gains for women’s sports, and basketball can use it. Portland is a great spot for that expansion. Not only are there women's sports fans, but basketball specifically, too. Portland just earned a regional in 2024 for the NCAA Tournament, as well as first- and second-round games in 2026. And, the Moda Center was set to hold part of the 2020 tournament as well. When the crowds for the University of Oregon and Oregon State are factored in - and they're top 10 nationally - and, hech, the hoop teams themselves being annually in national rankings, women's basketball would seem a natural for Portland.

But, any prospective team would require the support of the NBA team in that city - the Trail Blazers - as the NBA owns half of the WNBA. Portland once had that support with the Fire, who played from 2000-02, and were successful enough that when Paul Allen looked to either sell or disband the team in 2002, he had buyers awaiting in former Blazers great Clyde Drexler and local business tycoon Terry Emmert. But the deal fell apart and the Fire folded.

The Allen family continues to own the Blazers and WNBA market, and virtually no rumors exist about any expansion for the league.

 

 

Women's hoop could use a Fire in Portland

With Oregon teams drawing big crowds, the WNBA seems a perfect fit
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

An election year is a good time to debate about women's issues.

Especially, when it's an Olympic year, too (that's always the General Election).

In the sports world, over here in Portland, women's sports actually have it pretty good these days, starting with the Portland Thorns. The Thorns, the ladies' side of the Portland Timbers franchise, regularly fill Providence Park, and can fill it up on some occasions.

The women's soccer team at the University of Portland still has one of the proudest histories in the nation, and also can fill up Merlo Field when the right opponent shows up. Investing in women's soccer was one of the great moves the school made in the '90s with coach Clive Charles.

But, it's basketball I'm looking at these days, and that's not a part of the landscape here. It was at one time, but not today. Maybe it's time for a looksy again.

The WNBA has been around since 1997, and had the Portland Fire along for the ride from 2000-02. Team owner Paul Allen, was having trouble with hid men's team staying under the Luxury Tax - and by a lot - and couldn't seem to afford to lose any money on the women's team and tossed it.

These days, the women's game is making a big comeback ... in Oregon. In Eugene and Corvallis to be exact, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't get support in Portland again, especially with the same name and logo involved - they both fit the city pretty good.

Attendance for women's basketball in Eugene actually outpaces the men's team, which happens often in Corvallis as well. It figures because both women's teams are ranked in the Top 12 and have been all season.

Oregon, the nation's preseason No. 1, is going bonkers at the gate with more than 10,000 fans per game. That's up from 4,255 just two seasons ago. Enter Sabrina Ionescu and friends, and the MAT has been rocking. The Ducks get 12,000-plus for games these days heading toward the NCAA Tournament and a run towards the school's first title in a TV sport since, before it was on TV.

The Beavers were 16th in the nation in attendance last season with more than 5,400 fans per game.

So, what's with Portland?

Portland's got all kinds of fans who want to build a baseball stadium to LURE a team to the Rose City. All the town needs for a WNBA team is an owner and a marketing team to corral a fan base.

The Fire would step right into a hot situation with Northwest rival Seattle involved with the Storm. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are in as well, so there's easy road trips to be had.

Now is a perfect time for a local investor to look into this, and the league needs some new energy. It really needs some new energy for the 12 other teams. Average game attendance has fallen from 7,700 fans to 6,500 fans in just two years and things such as travelling conditions have been in the news beyond just simple salaries.

With Oregon's Ionescu figuring to be the top pick in the draft, the opportunity to begin a franchise may not be better, especially without the luxury tax on the men's team to hold it down.

 

The Fire should be burning in Portland

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 4:25pm
Cliff Pfenning
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Last seen: 5 weeks 1 day ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

An election year is a good time to debate about women's issues.

Especially, when it's an Olympic year, too (that's always the General Election). 

In the sports world, over here in Portland, women's sports actually have it pretty good these days, starting with the Portland Thorns. The Thorns, the ladies' side of the Portland Timbers franchise, regularly fill Providence Park, and can fill it up on some occasions. 

The women's soccer team at the University of Portland still has one of the proudest histories in the nation, and also can fill up Merlo Field when the right opponent shows up. Investing in women's soccer was one of the great moves the school made in the '90s with coach Clive Charles.

But, it's basketball I'm looking at these days, and that's not a part of the landscape here. It was at one time, but not today. Maybe it's time for a looksy again.

The WNBA has been around since 1997, and had the Portland Fire along for the ride from 2000-02. Team owner Paul Allen, was having trouble with hid men's team staying under the Luxury Tax - and by a lot - and couldn't seem to afford to lose any money on the women's team and tossed it.

These days, the women's game is making a big comeback ... in Oregon. In Eugene and Corvallis to be exact, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't get support in Portland again, especially with the same name and logo involved - they both fit the city pretty good.

Attendance for women's basketball in Eugene actually outpaces the men's team, which happens often in Corvallis as well. It figures because both women's teams are ranked in the Top 12 and have been all season.

Oregon, the nation's preseason No. 1, is going bonkers at the gate with more than 10,000 fans per game. That's up from 4,255 just two seasons ago. Enter Sabrina Ionescu and friends, and the MAT has been rocking. The Ducks get 12,000-plus for games these days heading toward the NCAA Tournament and a run towards the school's first title in a TV sport since, before it was on TV.

The Beavers were 16th in the nation in attendance last season with more than 5,400 fans per game.

So, what's with Portland?

Portland's got all kinds of fans who want to build a baseball stadium to LURE a team to the Rose City. All the town needs for a WNBA team is an owner and a marketing team to corral a fan base.

The Fire would step right into a hot situation with Northwest rival Seattle involved with the Storm. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are in as well, so there's easy road trips to be had. 

Now is a perfect time for a local investor to look into this, and the league needs some new energy. It really needs some new energy for the 12 other teams. Average game attendance has fallen from 7,700 fans to 6,500 fans in just two years and things such as travelling conditions have been in the news beyond just simple salaries.

With Oregon's Ionescu figuring to be the top pick in the draft, the opportunity to begin a franchise may not be better, especially without the luxury tax on the men's team to hold it down.

 

 

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