GREG JAYNE: Vancouver needs to be swinging at this pitch

Commentary: Greg Jayne

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

It could, in theory, come to a crashing halt on Wednesday, like a batter looking at a third strike with two outs in the ninth.

When the Clark County commissioners meet for a work session to discuss a proposal to lure the Yakima Bears to Vancouver, when they mull over the viability of the financing plan and measure the area’s political will for building a minor-league baseball stadium, it could mark the end of the entire process.

And if it does, I can’t help but think that Clark County residents someday will be struck with the opposite of buyer’s remorse, whatever that antonym might be. I can’t help but think we’ll someday look at our neighbors and wonder why we weren’t willing to spend just a little more money and expend just a little more effort to bring a team to Vancouver.

Sometime soon, some community in the Portland area is going to have a shiny new minor-league baseball team. And the impact will be like when you bought that Yugo and then watched your neighbor pull up in a new Honda — “Ugh! I should have spent a little bit more.”

Once a team is in place, baseball’s rules regarding territorial rights likely will leave Vancouver out in the cold. There’s no second chance if this opportunity slips away.

Milwaukie, Ore., for example, already is talking about building a stadium to lure a team, its desire fueled by the proximity of a light-rail station near the proposed site.

As an aside, I would rather gouge my eyes out than support light rail, which is the biggest boondoggle ever foisted upon the public. Light rail: Never has so much been spent by so many to benefit so few.

Which is one of the conundrums surrounding the Vancouver proposal. The proposed stadium site on the Clark County campus is near a proposed light-rail station, and I can empathize with those who are dead set against light rail.

But if light rail does reach its slimy tentacles across the Columbia River, there is going to be a station at that site whether or not a stadium is in the area, given the proximity to Clark College. The existence of a stadium will have no impact on whether or not light rail comes to Vancouver, and suggesting that a stadium will alter the light-rail debate is like a mayoral candidate saying he can prevent tolls on the I-5 bridge.

I can understand the legitimate arguments against building a stadium. Yes, it would be costly, with the proposal calling for the county to provide 70 percent of the financing. Yes, it would require a commitment from the city, essentially assuring that Vancouver would keep its hands off the 5 percent entertainment fee. Yes, it would alter the neighborhood and create traffic and noise.

Yet the proposal remains a sweetheart of a deal for the county. The stadium would be available for use by the public and by Clark College; the team would offer affordable, family-friendly entertainment; a minor-league club could help provide Vancouver with an identity; and the proposal involves a fee, not a tax that burdens all residents.

You’ll never get a stadium at less expense.

Maybe the numbers pencil out, maybe they don’t. Estimates show that the entertainment fee would raise about $900,000 a year. Whether or not that’s enough is up to the county commissioners.

But if the deal falls through Wednesday or sometime in the future, it will feel like Clark County struck out without even getting the bat off its shoulder.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. You can reach him at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To “Like” his Facebook page, search for “Greg Jayne - The Columbian.”