File this under the “Really?” tab but it is real. In an attempt to lure Major League Baseball to Portland, Oregon one enterprising entrepreneur has proposed building an all wooden stadium. Now this is, at the moment, just a dream. Major League Baseball is not considering expansion or the relocation of any franchise at the moment but could it be done?
Now this is not just any wood that will be used. The wood would be a high-tech cross-laminated timber, or CLT, that would be able to stand not only the weight that a major league venue would need but also be able to stand up to seismic stress. This may be doable as Portland also approved the building of the first wooden skyscraper in the US and wooden skyscrapers are starting to be built all across the globe but a 30,000+ seat baseball stadium is a whole different animal.
Portland has been without professional baseball since 2010 when its Pacific Coast League team, the Beavers, moved out of Multnomah Park (since renamed Providence Park). The city has tried before to land a major league franchise, even making a pitch to take the Montreal Expos in the early 2000s. The proposed site is located at the original home of the Portland Beavers from 1901-1956, the Vaughn Street Park, which ironically had one of its bleacher sections burn down in 1947 because of a stray cigarette butt. With a nearby plant shutting down and slated for demolition the land will be potentially available.
Portland, Oregon was not the only city that has had their all-wooden baseball stadium burn to the ground. In Baltimore, Terrapin Park aka Oriole Park burned to the ground in 1944 thanks to an unextinguished cigarette butt. The grounds crew would water down the wooden stands after every game to douse cigarette butts but one stayed lit. For the residents of Baltimore there was a happy ending. The Orioles moved their games to the local Municipal Stadium (soon to be renamed Memorial Stadium), home of the Army-Navy football game and occasionally the Maryland Terrapins football team, and played a Junior World Series (modern AAA) game in front of over 52,000 fans, which actually outdrew the World Series that year. This showed that Baltimore was a viable major league market and in 1954 the Baltimore Orioles were welcomed into the major leagues. Other stadiums that have burned to the ground include Russwood Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee in 1960 and Griffith Park in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1985.
This is not going to happen immediately as MLB’s commissioner Rob Manfred has stated he would like to have the stadium situations with the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s resolved before even considering expansion. Considering that Oakland is only 620 miles from Portland it does almost seem like an ideal fit as no divisional realignment would be necessary should relocation be necessary. In an ironic twist of fate Montreal is a potential suitor for relocation or expansion as well.
Portland is home to two other franchises, the NBA’s Portland TrailBlazers and the MLS’ Portland Timbers so there is a sporting footprint already in the city of 583,776 people. It is one of the largest markets in the US without a major league baseball team and is the largest market in the US without any form of professional baseball. The Seattle Mariners are about 170 miles to the north which would potentially set up a nice rivalry as well as reducing the isolation of the Mariners. The closest team to Portland is the Hillsboro Hops, a short-season team in the Northwest League, about 30 miles to the west.
There are a number of questions that would need to be answered before a project like this can go ahead so don’t plan a baseball road trip to Portland anytime soon baseball fans. The main question is can an all wooden venue hold 30-40,000 fans? The experts don’t believe so and there are other competing venues for a potential stadium in the Portland area. Even with that being said, here’s an idea: How about using some reclaimed wood for some of the park? It would look great in the skyboxes!