Lents Neighborhood gets an amateur baseball team!

A new amateur baseball league is expected to announce Tuesday that it's expanding into Portland and a local team will play home games at Lents Park in east Portland.

League and city officials declined to confirm the deal Monday, deferring to a noon press conference Tuesday.

The new league would begin play in June 2016 and feature a Portland team of unpaid collegiate athletes to play 30 games a year at city-owned Walker Stadium in Lents Park. As part of the deal, city and league officials are expected to pay for modest upgrades at the stadium.

The official announcement will mark the latest baseball addition to the metro area since the Portland Beavers, a Triple-A Minor League Baseball team, left town in 2010. Sports owner Merritt Paulson sold the Beavers because he couldn't strike a deal to build a new baseball stadium after Portland officials approved a plan to renovate Providence Park for the Portland Timbers soccer team.

An amateur baseball team in east Portland isn't expected to compete with the Hillsboro Hops, a Single-A Minor League Baseball team that began playing locally in 2013.

Neighborhood leaders from Lents have been working with Ken Wilson, president of the newly formed Great West League, since last year on the proposal.

The small-scale plan won over neighborhood residents in a way that a big-time concept for a $49 million Minor League Baseball stadium could not in 2009. Some residents reviled the bigger proposal to keep the Beavers - but locals say the new effort is in scale with their neighborhood.

Neighborhood leaders hope that spillover from games also might pump money into nearby businesses in the Lents town center, an area targeted for redevelopment by city officials and private builders.

"You're bringing life to an area that badly needs it," said Jesse Cornett, chairman of the Lents neighborhood association.

Portland's team is expected to be one of six in the Great West League, with squads already announced in the California cities of Lodi and Chico. The league will be similar to the West Coast League, a wood-bat exhibition group for college students that Wilson also led. That league has teams in southern Oregon, Washington and Canada.

Neighborhood leaders endorsed the Portland proposal for Lents Park in December and discussed the concept at their January meeting, publicly identifying Wilson in the process.

Ticket prices will include options for less than $8 per game, Wilson said.

Wilson will own the local team and registered a new business, Rose City Baseball, with the state of Oregon in January. The company submitted a land-use application on Feb. 27 for city officials to review "several signs at Walker Stadium in Lents Park."

"I can tell you there's an announcement tomorrow and it's about a team in the city of Portland," Wilson said. "I'm not confirming anything. But I'm telling you you're not too far off."

City officials also declined to confirm the deal. Portland Parks & Recreation hyped an "important announcement about baseball and the Rose City" Monday but Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the bureau, declined through an aide to comment.

Neighborhood leaders also expressed excitement that improvements at the park will benefit residents on the 335 days when the new team isn't playing games. Walker Stadium was originally supposed to receive upgrades as part of a 1994 bond measure but city leaders didn't follow as other projects competed for limited funding.

"It needs some love," Cora Potter, land-use chairwoman for the Lents neighborhood association, said of Walker Stadium.

From Oregonlive.com: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/03/amatuer_baseball_league_swingi.html

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