MLS Expansion: I Have Seen Hillsboro Stadium...

....and it's gonna take more work to make that venue fly than I had originally anticipated.

Here's the deal: my daughter attended a breast cancer event with her Girl Scout troop, one that happened to be based at Hillsboro Stadium. That's significant becuase, assuming Kevin McGeehan has it right in his piece on likely candidates for MLS expansion (in which he endorses the Las Vegas bid; for the record, I endorse his endorsement), Hillsboro stadium enters into the equation for many observers:

"The situation is fluid, and the ultimate decision may hinge on whether the SuperSonics decide to follow through on their threats to leave the Emerald City. At the moment, though, it looks like Portland may have a slight edge in the race due to plans to expand an existing stadium in Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland. If this plan works, it’s conceivable that a club could play in Portland next season."

Which brings us to what expanding that stadium will entail. Hillsboro Stadium is smaller than it looks from the four-lane highway that buzzes by it; the turf will likely need replacement as well. It's surrounded, at this point, by softball/baseball fields - will those be replaced by soccer fields, or will "America's game" hold its place? Tough as those issues sound, they're nothing next to figuring access to the stadium.

Finding the access to the stadium is hard enough, especially from the highway; to get past a Fred Meyer (local grocery chain) suburban complex signs will need to be put up at the very least. Once you find the right road, you find yourself on a stretch of via twisting, narrow one-lane pavement pinched by lava boulders on one side and lines of parked cars on the other. I happened to show up during a softball tournament of some kind, which had people stopping and parallel parking all over the damn place. In other words, given MLS's preference for Saturday games, it's pretty clear that those softball fields and a regular events drawing 15,000-20,000 cannot co-exist.

The set up in the parking lots that currently exist is insane, Those one-lane stretches of pavement (I can't bring myself to call them roads; they're too narrow) extend across the tops of the parking lot, but they go through these weird traffic cluster-fucks that confuse motorists to the extent of creating a sort of free-for-all - e.g. cars head on these extensions going both directions making it really hard to tell which lanes are supposed to go which way. That said, the parking area isn't all that bad and, really, would require some clearing to boost the number of available spaces (though additional construction will remain necessary).

While I'm sure the parking/access equation can be remedied - albeit at a cost in dollars and, essentially, starting over - limitations to the physical space cause additional concerns. I've implied the issues in play: the Fred Meyer shopping complex and the highway completely rules out growth in two directions; existing office parks take out another one, leaving exactly one direction for expansion - and that wouldn't be easy. The softball fields will likely have to go as well - either that, or the events on them scheduled away from potential MLS games.

None of this is to say that settling a Portland team in Hillsboro won't be possible. But the site means this will be more complicated by far than simply expanding the stadium: an overhaul of the infrastrucuture surrounding the stadium, almost completely revamping the parking set up, not to mention doing battle with local interests from Fred Meyer to whomever organizes softball games will be required to make this work. And these are expenses I didn't take into account the first time I posted on this (link below). I'll tell you one thing: unless we run the construction with the brutality of an old Soviet five-year plan - and with several times the efficiency as well - next season is definitely not an option.

And after all that the market that may prove fairly lukewarm in the end.

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