Gresham Chamber talks baseball as city eyes MLB expansion
The Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce was all about peanuts and Cracker Jack as they discussed what it would take to entice Major League Baseball to build a stadium in East Multnomah County.
And while MLB dreams for the eastside may feel like swinging for the fences, a passionate group of Gresham residents are working hard to make it happen.
Everything is being spearheaded by Lynn Lashbrook, a self-described "crazy baseball guy" who spoke to the Chamber during a luncheon Tuesday afternoon, July 20. Lashbrook has had his fingers all over Oregon's efforts to bring the Majors to the area for nearly three decades, including participating in planning sessions for many of the proposed downtown Portland venues.
"Baseball is in my blood. I want to catch my 14th foul ball in Oregon," said Lashbrook, an NFL agent who is also the president and founder of Sports Management Worldwide, an online sports management school.
The current pitch is MultCO Baseball Park, which would be developed at Multnomah County's Vance Property, 90 acres between Southeast 182nd and 190th avenues. Crafted by Portland architect Barry Smith, the proposal blends baseball, housing, industry and parks in an area ripe for development in Rockwood.
The sweeping vision would transform a total of 250 acres through development, including filling in Knife River's defunct sand and gravel quarry.
"When I started putting this together, I thought 'This is not just about baseball — it's about who we are and our future,'" Smith said.
The plans are headlined by the baseball park — a 38,000 seat stadium with a view of Mount Hood from home plate. But there are also designs for New Generation Factories, 3.25 million square feet of production, research and design facilities; about 7,500 new households for workforce, community and affordable housing; a festival marketplace surrounded by hospitality facilities; MultCO Stadium, an expandable 40,000 seat stadium for football, soccer and rugby; and 45 acres of parks and recreation.
"They told me if we want to draw Major League Baseball, the proposal has to be as competitive as if we were trying to go after the Olympics," Smith said. "So I wanted to pitch something truly special."
Gresham has a lot to offer as the home of a suburban MLB stadium. The ballpark would only be a few miles from downtown Portland and the airport, and there is already a robust public transit system with the MAX Blue Line and plans to expand bus service along Division. There is also talk of creating an express train that would run from Portland straight to the stadium.
"There is no loss in having conversations like this," Lashbrook said. "This shines a spotlight on Gresham and shows everything this community has to offer."
Lashbrook said the draw for the MLB is getting to move into the Portland market while enjoying cheaper land, better infrastructure, room to grow, and avoiding the political headache that is downtown Portland.
There are several ways in which Oregon could secure a team. Even though the Oakland City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday afternoon, July 20, in favor of moving forward with a new stadium to keep the Athletics in Oakland, there is still potential the team would want to relocate to a better market. The Tampa Bay Rays are also rumbling about a new home.
And MLB has talked about expanding with two new teams, one of which could choose Oregon.
If any of those teams ever chose to move to the state, another idea would be for the team to play in Seattle during the 5 years it would take to construct a local venue. Lashbrook said it would make sense for all groups, as the two cities are nearby and Seattle would welcome more in-person events and ticket sales in the wake of COVID-19.
The next step is to get the Gresham stadium plans before potential owners to guage interest.
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, this is about sharing our vision," Lashbrook said. "There is no guarantee we will ever get a team, and if we do they might not want to come to Gresham."
One key is dispelling bias against the eastside, Lashbrook said. East Multnomah County residents who want to see Major League Baseball come to Gresham should sign a petition online at mustlovebaseball.com
"Having a Major League Baseball team would be great for our quality of life," Lashbrook said. "Sports can be a great place to escape."
To learn more about the efforts to bring Major League Baseball to Oregon, and to sign a petition in support of the Gresham stadium, visit mustlovebaseball.com
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