So the mayor, a councilman and a billionaire walk into a bar…

by Steve, October 14th, 2010

Geo. W. Bush and Henry Paulson

If you know me, or if you’ve read this blog from time to time, you’ve got some inkling what I think of Merritt Paulson, ultra-rich scion of former Goldman Sachs CEO and Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. (If you don’t know me, and don’t want to follow the links, here’s what I think: he’s a spoiled rich kid playing sports team owner and an annoying little twit.)

After a bizarre series of attempted deals with the Mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, and the shadow mayor, Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard — who tried like hell to figure out a way to build the Paulsons two stadiums on the public dime, but ran into tenatious opposition from veterans, architects, urban planners, neighborhood activists and historic preservationists — poor wittle Merrit only got one stadium and had to sell his wittle baseball team for lack of a suitable playground.

(His daddy is a partner in his minor league sports empire, by the way, so it’s a wonder he wouldn’t put up more cash to build a stadium if it’s such a sure fire financial win to invest in sports stadiums as is frequently claimed. But I digress….)

The excavators are already busy at PGE Park (nee Civic Stadium; the Paulsons get the dough on the naming deal), ripping out part of the $38.5 million renovations done in 2001. These renovations, that Portland is still paying off, were done to make it a better venue for baseball, including a retro, manually-operated scoreboard. It’s a long story. Cutting to the chase: they’re re-renovating nine years later as a soccer-specific venue, to the exclusion of baseball.

Today comes the news that the Portland Beavers have been sold as expected, and are officially moving to Escondido, California.

I generally avoid the crappy comments section at OregonLive, the crappy Web partner of our crappy daily The Oregonian, but today I couldn’t resist jumping in to the Soccer v. Baseball war when somebody posted an invitation to a “Timbers Army/Sam Adams joke contest.” Here’s my entry, edited here in a vain attempt to punch it up a little:

A mayor, a councilman and a billionaire walk into a bar. A couple sleepy customers are watching a baseball game on the screen behind the bar. Bartender says, what’ll it be, boys? Mayor says, whatever my friend here wants, it’s on the house. Bartender says, no way pal, hit the road.

Next thing you know, a bunch of drunken, middle-aged, white man-children wearing scarves are flooding through the front door, knocking over tables and singing vulgar songs…. pretty soon the sleepy baseball fans are out on their ears, there’s a soccer game on the TV, the billionaire’s behind the bar with his hands in the till and the bartender’s getting beat up by the councilman.

The mayor takes out his phone and tweets: “This is a great day for Portland. #timbersarmy #mls”

Yeah. It’s a joke, but it’s not very funny.

Do me better. What’s your Portland/Sam Adams/Merritt Paulson/Randy Leonard/Timbers Army/Beavers joke?

Amanda speaks for me

by Steve, June 12th, 2009

With all the hullabaloo surrounding our very own scion of a Bush crony begging public money for his private sports teams, and with the rump of Oregon’s infamous Goldschmidt gang doing his bidding, it sure is nice to have Amanda Fritz on the city council.

As reported in the Willamette Week today, Fritz sent a comprehensive condemnation (PDF) of the plan to put a baseball stadium in Lents Park to her council colleagues. It’s a great read, but if you’re in a hurry, here’s the gist of it:

I oppose any proposal that uses Portland taxpayers’ money, including urban renewal funds, to build sports facilities. If the PGE renovations for soccer and construction of a modest stadium for baseball cannot be accomplished using spectator and visitor taxes, the private interests desiring professional sports teams in Portland should pay the balance.

Nick Fish  is also thought to be opposed to this nonsense, with Randy Leonard and Sam Adams heading up the magical thinking crowd pushing this deal forward. (Adams’ old mentor Vera Katz is lobbying for the deal.)

Dan Saltzman will likely be the swing vote on any deal, and has issued a list of conditions for his support.

Now would be a good time to drop Amanda a line thanking her for her principled stand, and also to Dan to urge him to oppose this boondoggle.

Shut the Eff up, Merrit Paulson

by Steve, April 15th, 2009

hockeyMerit Paulson, millionaire son of Bush Treasury Secretary and former head of Goldman Sachs Hank Paulson, wants to tell us to do with our Memorial Coliseum.

Isn’t that cute.

Besides being insanely rushed, there are many reasons to oppose this absurd deal.

The Coliseum is a modernist masterpiece, with its square glass curtain walls enclosing a simple, graceful sweep of the arena bowl. It also happens to be a very functional (if run-down) mid-sized spectator venue in the center of our city, providing year-round family entertainment, with fantastic sight lines for the game of hockey.

Paulson cites a figure of losing $500,000 a year, the amount dedicated from the city’s spectator fund (money from parking revenue and ticket surcharges) to do maintenance at the Coliseum. But he coliseum actually provides income to its contracted management firm (Paul Allen), and could make money for the city if they transferred management to the Winter Hawks, who might also be amenable to a public-private partnership to renovate the old glass palace in return for good terms on a long-term lease.

You guys on city council want to make a deal with a millionaire? How about ringing up Alberta oilman Bill Gallacher, owner of the Winter Hawks.

Such a renovation could include facilities for public recreational skating opportunities (the Winter Hawks have expressed an interest in starting a youth hockey program), revenue-producing suites, an improved ice plant and surface, and updated mechanical systems. A restaurant/bar could be added, which, combined with recreational skating, could draw significant use and income for the city-owned facility.

Merrit Paulson’s plan for our city property would be extremely costly and would see use fewer than six months out of the year. It would offer no public recreational use.

Portland policy makers for years have failed to address the future of the Coliseum, and have let it fall into a sorry state of disrepair. But even a total renovation would be less expensive than tearing it down and building a new facility. Portland has a demonstrated, ongoing need for a spectator venue of this size, it can be easily configured to offer public recreation, and it is an architectural treasure.

So, Randy Leonard: as a fellow hockey fan, I’m disappointed in you. Sam Adams, I’m not at all surprised. But you should be ashamed of yourself.

And Merrit Paulson, just because daddy’s rich, doesn’t mean you can ride into town and tell us what to do with our treasured civic property. Why don’t you take your sports dreams somewhere else and leave our Coliseum alone.

I like a manager with a smart mouf

by Steve, June 5th, 2008

They say hockey guys talk dirty. Huh. Listen to Seattle Mariners’ manager John McLaren cuss up a blue streak.

On the hockey front, Congrats to Detroit, even though I was bound by blood to root for the Pens. I wore my Pens’ hat throughout the series, but that wasn’t good enough. The best team won, and it was a great series.

Pittsburgh is going to be a force to be reckoned with, and will have the cup in the next few years, just you wait.