With today’s announcement that an ownership group is in place for the MLB to expand to Portland, baseball fever gripped the town. Portland can clearly support another pro franchise, but for a number of reasons listed below, it should still be hockey rather than baseball.
Baseball’s regular season runs from April until September; hockey operates from October through April. While MLB is in season, so is outdoor recreation. Hockey coincides with rainy season. Baseball would draw even more tourists in the summer, whereas visiting hockey fans would help fill existing tourist capacity left empty during the winter.
The Moda Center is NHL-ready, and the VMC could host an AHL (top level minor league hockey) team with a few upgrades. MLB would require an expensive, single-use stadium to which local taxpayers would likely have to contribute a sizeable amount. Location would also be a concern; a complete redevelopment of the VMC is cited as a possibility, but the location’s historical designation would make that difficult if not outright impossible. Considering Portland’s frequency of rainy weather, a costly retractable roof would also be necessary.
3) Sports Economics
Baseball and hockey have different team payroll provisions. The NHL has a salary floor and cap, a range in which all teams must operate. Baseball lacks a salary cap, instead imposing a luxury tax on teams with payrolls over a certain amount. This allows teams with deep pockets to spend as much as they are willing to, providing an advantage to large market teams with wealthy owners. Until we know more about the baseball ownership group, we can’t assume they will be able to absorb bad contracts and pay superstars what they are worth.
4) The Game Itself
Baseball’s pace is slow, with constant breaks for warm ups and adjustments. On the other hand, hockey has constant action, only stopping for whistles, pucks out of play, or goals. With the ease of distraction by smartphone prevalent in modern times, hockey is more likely to engage the casual fan.
With the cat out of the bag about the MLB putting serious consideration into expanding into Portland, the topic will be discussed a lot in the future. Obviously this blog has a bias towards hockey, but the points in this article are not easily refuted due to subjectivity. Let’s not forget, should baseball not work out, this assembled ownership group may want to explore hockey…