PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Baseball is returning to Portland, and it could help revitalize a neighborhood in the midst of the recession.
Mayor Charlie Hales announced baseball’s return to the city with a new college wood-bat team based in East Portland. He made the announcement Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Portland downtown.
“It’s a natural that baseball is coming back to Portland,” Mayor Hales said.
The college team will play in the new Great West League, which provides a minor league-like atmosphere for top college baseball players.
“These are all players that are playing at good programs and have visions of playing pro ball,” Owner Ken Wilson told KOIN 6 News.
It will be the first Portland team since the Beavers left Providence Park to make way for the Timbers.
The new team, which is yet to be named, will play at Walker Stadium at Lents Park in Southeast Portland. The 1,500 seat stadium will receive $650,000 in renovations including new concession stands, a scoreboard, a new playing surface and group event areas.–> Vote for the team name here <–
“This community-scale sports franchise approach, I think, is right for baseball now in Portland,” Mayor Hales said. “Lents Park Walker Stadium is a perfect fit.”
The announcement of a new baseball team brings with it a potential boost to the working-class neighborhood where development has been difficult to achieve. There are several new developments in the works including apartments and a new brewpub in the area. There are also potential plans to buy and renovate the New Copper Penny Nightclub property.
As the economy improves, Lents is starting to get attention — and a new summer pastime can’t hurt.
“It’s hard to start from the ground up when you’re in the midst of a recession,” Nick Christensen with the Lents Neighborhood Association said. “That’s over with now, and the community’s getting stronger.”
The new baseball team will play a 60 game season, with 30 games at home. The team will pay rent to the city and provide security and maintenance. While the team isn’t using the stadium, little league players and others will get a chance at bat.
The inaugural season will begin in June 2016.