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Portland Expos? A downtown casino may pull it off

Feb 25, 2003 4:32 AM

FROM GT / STAFF WIRE REPORTS

Major league baseball in exchange for a downtown casino. The Indians have literally thrown the ball in Portland’s court.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde want permission to build a new casino in the Portland metropolitan area. For that to happen, the tribes are willing to provide the funding for a major league baseball stadium that the city hopes could attract the Montreal Expos or a new franchise.

City officials told a local Portland television station that they were caught off-guard by the offer, but that city Mayor Vera Katz and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski both thought the idea was worth discussing.

Katz told the Associated Press she had first learned of the proposal Friday morning while listening to the radio news. The Portland mayor is a longtime baseball fan, who has been leading an effort to bring the Expos to Oregon. Katz plans to hold a second round of meetings with league officials next month.

A spokesman for the Grand Ronde said the response has been positive to the proposal. Portland, Washington D.C., and northern Virginia are seen as the favorites to land the Expos. The lame duck major league franchise would be the first team to move since the expansion Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers following the 1971 season.

The Grand Ronde already has built the Spirit Mountain casino and resort west of Salem into one of the most successful Indian gaming operations in the Northwest, according to the article. The cost of a stadium is estimated at $350 million. That figure would rise if a retractable roof is added to deal with the city’s inclement weather.

Portland has been one of the most successful franchises for years in the Pacific Coast League. Currently, Portland Beavers are the Class AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The Padres had a Class AAA club based previously in Las Vegas. The Los Angeles Dodgers have since moved its Triple-A franchise to Las Vegas, now known as the 51s.