Not that it's surprising to many of us, but Merritt "I Live in Lake Oswego" Paulson today looks set to benefit from $11.9 million in city bonds, while only paying $8 million in cash (presumably a fraction of his trust fund) up front, for Major League Soccer. He'll fork over another $11.1 million in pre-paid rent, but that hardly counts as a risk on his part—unless of course the league goes bankrupt as quickly as we're all expecting. From ESPN this afternoon:
An ominous deadline approaches on Sunday for Major League Soccer and its associated labor interests, who are working to achieve an accord. The parties' collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the week, so dreadful images of strikes and lockouts may be increasing for fans and all involved principals.
"There's nothing in this deal that says you'll get a baseball stadium," said a Beavers fan, clearly stricken about losing the team. "Why can't we work out a deal with MLS to share the stadium for, say, three years? In these economic times, we need to look at all the people this will affect."
The vote is yet to happen, and I'll update this post as things happen, although it's pretty evident that City Commissioner Amanda Fritz is going to say "no." Still, City Commissioner Randy Leonard can count to three—a majority of votes, and he has Mayor Sam Adams and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman on side. Nick Fish is a maybe, at this point, although he's up for re-election and has been ambivalent about the deal over recent months. Either way it's a definite yes. Unless someone sets another bagel on fire, that is...
Update, 3:45 There were also alarmist, bordering on crackpot, concerns from Peter Apanel, which I include here for your amusement. He described the deal as "fraudulent," saying that even after renovations, there will be "a deficit of 243 toilets and urinals" compared to the requirements of MLS for the renovation of stadiums. He said the city risked an SEC fraud investigation, that might wreck the city's bond status. "You can look forward to PGE Park becoming a laughing stock for years to come," he said. Adams said MLS would review the deal, but Apanel said, "they are the ones committing the fraud." Adams said MLS "gets to set the rules for the renovations." "You don't want to hear this," said Apanel. "You don't want to know what's going on." "I know that I'm not going to convince you today," responded Adams. "But we now have to move on." "Good luck with the Federal investigators," said Apanel. Burrrrn?
Update, 3:58 I'm an idiot. The vote is next week, but it'll be a formality then:
"I want to guarantee you that there'll be three votes, next week, for this deal," said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. "I think this is an outstanding agreement and one that we'll be proud of for a long time."
Saltzman pointed out his resistance to including general fund money in the deal, or urban renewal money. "We're getting a health clinic that will serve people on medicaid," he said. "And we're getting an upgraded stadium."
"I sort of associated the Timbers Army with images of hooligans in Europe," said Saltzman, adding that the Timbers Army had "really impressed me." "We're gonna need people in that stadium attending those games in greater numbers than we have so far."
Fritz, who has been an outspoken critic of the deal in the past, said she wanted to return to the places where she did agree, and thanked Paulson for promising to make PGE Park a "tobacco-free place." "We can all look forward to the World Cup."
Fish said "there are already three votes to move this, so I'm free to actually do what I think is the right thing, and not weigh too heavily on what I think is the political thing." He said he's a big fan of soccer and thought this would be a good thing for Portland. "While this is not a perfect deal, I believe this is a good deal for Portland, and so when this comes before us next week I will cast a fourth vote—it's my way of saying that I actually have confidence in this deal."
"There's risk in everything we do," said Fish. "Our job is to balance risk with reward, and I think that the balance has tipped." He also cited the recent taxpayer deal in Kansas City, where $140million of taxpayer cash had financed the soccer team. "Hopefully the ink on that deal has dried before they hear about this one," said Fish.
"This has been a great journey for me," said Leonard. "I got to go to New York City for the first time in my life." "Portland will be a better place for having you here, Merritt."
Adams thanked Paulson for being willing to invest "multiple millions of dollars at a really dark time."