Gosh, it was just ten days ago that I wrote The Hillsboro We Are Getting Is Not The One We Deserve. Almost 10,000 people read that story; perhaps many of you did. In the story, I questioned if the City of Hillsboro is what we deserve as citizens and if it is really a fair and equitable place where people are treated with respect and equality. A place where the process of running our City is fair, transparent, and for the people of Hillsboro. A place where all of us can feel included. I asked these questions because my reality, which takes me into every facet of Hillsboro’s private and public sectors, tells me that the answer to that question is decidedly NO.
In that story, I took on a few concerns we should all have and pointed out several examples. One of them was that the Hillsboro Hops have asked for, and we are apparently going to be giving them; another $17 to $38 Million dollars. All because they and Major League Baseball do not like the Ron Tonkin Field which we just built them a decade ago. In fact at the last check, with limited records, the Hops are behind on payments, and we are still paying Millions to handle that debt. . We are now seeking full accounting and records on the original arrangement and what the City has received from the hops to date- not easy to get.
We are led to believe Major League Baseball might not keep them here in Hillsboro if we do not comply. The Gun is to our heads, I guess. I knew something was rotten about this deal. Many of us have a BS Meter, right? Well, those meters started going off all over the City last week.
A week after our story, journalist Troy Shinn of the Pamplin-owned Business Tribune broke the story Parks commissioners not pleased with Hillsboro’s process on new baseball stadium. This story was so very well done- and I am so glad to see I am no longer the only one digging in on hard issues and trying to get answers to some very big questions.
In the story about the City Council and City Manager, along with the Hops management, Shinn interviewed several people, including the past Chair and current Parks and Recreation Commission members. The story covered a lot, but at the core of it, we hear some of Hillsboro’s finest citizens break ranks for the first time with what has become the City’s “Hive Mind” where YES is all we seem to hear. The outrage that our Parks and Recreation Commissioners, both past and present, expressed was that their body had not been consulted about the new monetary commitments. Moreover, those public servants were floored to learn that the City Manager, with the support and direction of Mayor Callaway and the City Council, made a snap decision to dump the Stadium remodeling plan, build a new stadium, and remove the three major youth baseball and softball fields with no plan to replace them.
Recently termed out Parks Chair Gwynne Pitts was floored. She told the Shinn in the story; “This is not the way a public process works,” said longtime commissioner and chair Gwynne Pitts, who was term-limited off the commission this year. “You get the answers, and you tell the public what they are before moving forward … it’s not, ‘We’ll decide it and then make the agreements afterwards.’” https://www.biztrib.com/news/local/parks-commissioners-not-pleased-with-hillsboros-process-on-new-baseball-stadium/article_a733aa0e-a805-53c7-ad59-81f84f03bf98.html
Pitts is a 17-year Veteran of the Parks and Recreation Commission. She is a dynamic leader who has presided over many huge decisions for years. She was on the ground and in the decision makers seat when the first Hops stadium was approved ten years ago. This woman is not only dynamic but she is respected. And I will go as far as to say, after I met with her this morning, that she is disgusted, saddened, and angry about this situation. She is not alone, and the din of dissent is rising. She is a positive leader who works to make things work, but this was such a breach of faith that she could not stay silent. Good for Gwynne- she risked and probably just burned a whole bunch of goodwill and political capital on that bold statement and others she is making. My kind of human.
Other sitting Parks Commissioners seem equally disenfranchised and upset. Chris Cardani stated in the Pamplin story that a joint letter was being sent by the Commission to our City Council asking many questions and pointing out that there are serious issues and consequences for the decision the Council made without any input.
Before I get too far into the weeds (and please read the Troy Shinn story) let me say this. This is the same power-mongering and arrogance that seems to permeate decisions in modern-day Hillsboro. Say one thing, do another. Say you want community involvement, in fact, require it in written policies, and then circumvent it. Say you want equity- and offer none. And the moment the Hops need something, the current leadership will collapse and say “YES”, with no debate and no input. Hillsboro has a small handful of influential people who want baseball, have the time and job security to attend games, and who do not care what else happens- the Hops will get what they want. That is the issue. The City often acts like a petulant child who wants what they want and who don’t give a damn what it takes to get it; even if it means depriving our children and citizens out of the use of the very ball fields and facilities that former Mayor Gordon Faber made sure we built just for them.
Here is what I do know:
Current Hops Stadium and Our Youth and Rec. Fields 4,5,6 – About 8 Acres Of Great Fields
These Will Be Destroyed After The Tax Payers Spent Hundreds of Thousands to Build And Maintain Them- No Replacement Fields Planned
Proposed New Hops Stadium Eliminating Public Fields 4,5,6 which have no replacement right now – Any location with parking will cost Millions to Replace. A noise study must be done to protect the thousands who live to the North and North East. The ballpark announcers, crowds, and fireworks can be heard for miles, and this new stadium will project into our Helvetia Hills and Tualatin Mountains. Fireworks will now be under massive BPA Powerlines- that won’t work. Parking needs and transportation studies should have been required. So many questions should have come forward at a proper hearing, Parks Commission meeting, or Community sit-down. Now it appears too late as the Council decided on its own.
- The City wants to use 18 Million dollars which it will divert away from other programs that would have qualified and give it to the Hops – this money will be taken from future Transient Lodging Tax revenues – it is a real stretch to assume the Hops have more than a few dozen people staying at hotels on Game days. Getting our 18 Million Dollars back will take years, taking that money away from other necessary expenditures.
- The Hops NEW STADIUM will cost at least $120,000,000. There is no guarantee that this Stadium can be built in this inflationary economy for that number or even close. The Hops, on top of the $18,000,000 we are gifting them, are asking the State for $25,000,000 in free money. The Eugene team landed $7,500,000- and that is a bigger City. Even if the Hops get $15,000,000, they would need to raise at least $90,000,000, and there is no source for that money right now. It is very possible that they will NOT find the money, then what?
- The City COULD end up with Major League Baseball moving the team, the team becoming insolvent, and or moving themselves to greener pastures. No one has been able to ask if the HOPS can offer a surety bond or guarantee- that should be a quid pro quo before we allow them to move even one blade of grass on those recreational fields. That is unlikely to happen- it would be nice, and should be mandatory.
- The City did circumvent our Parks and Recreation Commission in making this decision, altering a prior agreement to expend money to enhance the existing HOPS Stadium.
- After the decision was made, a discussion started to move fields 4, 5, and 6 to the empty fields at R.A. Brown Junior High. But that site lacks parking, bathrooms, and other amenities and cannot provide the big league setting that the Gordon Faber Sports Complex can. And at what cost? $5 – $10 Million would be a good guess. Are the HOPS paying for that? If not, why not? If not, why is our City not adding that to this decision?
- We will lose PREMIER community fields- and even though City Manager Hammond said the pressure of making Major League Baseball happy was a motivational factor in this snap decision at City Hall, it is a BIG DEAL. City Hall is playing this down. What they did is a slap in the face to every one of us. Saying that the planned upgrades at the existing Hops Stadium would not work and the new Stadium would not cost the City more is just a lie or ignorance. The new Stadium takes from us as a Community 3 of the most excellent recreational baseball and softball fields in the Region. The Gordon Faber project is big-time baby- it has fantastic parking and amenities. It was initially planned to be specifically for Youth and Recreational Sports- it is, in fact, the envy of many other cities. How cheaply the decision makers valued those three fields- in fact, they agreed to the new Hops project with ZERO Value ascribed to them. If they cared about them, they would have budgeted for the replacements and stated that- they would have had a solution before making this short-sided decision.
- The Parks And Recreation Commission was not consulted about moving the proposed upgrade to the Ron Tonkin Field to an entirely new stadium and losing 3 fields. The Shinn article shows that the City Staff stated the new stadium was discussed in February and March. Pitts and others, and the meeting minutes show that is not true. So someone is not shooting straight.
The City of Hillsboro Charter, Chapter X, Section 39- States: “Parks & Recreation Commission: The mayor must appoint and the council confirm a minimum of five and a maximum of seven qualified electors of the city to serve as members of the city parks and recreation commission. Each member will serve a three-year term or until the appointment of a successor. The commission is under the direction of the council. It will oversee the management of city park and recreation facilities and activities. It has authority to regulate the use of parks and recreation facilities, establish fees and charges for such uses, and perform other duties delegated by ordinance. The Gordon Faber Complex is a Park- the Parks Department manages it. The words are clear: “authority to regulate the use of parks and recreation facilities, establish fees and charges for such uses”. It could not be more precise. This stadium and the removal of these fields are not the purviews of the City Council or the City Manager. This is not their domain. Man, I can smell the litigation brewing on this one if someone wants to file an injunction of procedural errors. Maybe the Parks Commission can set a fee of $100,000 a game for the Hops? That might be a good fix.
- Here is the March 7th, 2023 Packet that was used at the City Council Work Session, not shown to the Parks And Recreation Committee, and that night in a second meeting, the Council authorized the new plan and the loss of the Rec fields. ( Presentation For Revised HOPS Stadium March 7th, 2023). The new project, on paper seems to cost less, but nothing in the budget accounts for what it will cost to build comparable new fields- source land, build bathrooms, parking, fields, scoreboards, and the list goes on and on.
- Now this is just odd, and it is concerning. I have been involved in contractual negotiations for 42 years. Complex ones. In this Section 6.2 between the City of Hillsboro and the Hillsboro Hops, the City stipulates to Mark McMurray, Owner of the Hops, that he may not fire or allow anyone but K.L. Wombacher to lead the team. This is preposterous but not surprising. Mr. Wombacher is somewhat of a celebrity in the way he is talked about around the inner circles and clearly a big deal. But wow- just no words- what does this say about the trust between McMurray and City? Not very much. Not the way to start a $130,000,000 Million dollar relationship, or was it $180,000,000- well, who cares.
The Real Story- This incident, crisis really, is not done. There may be time to turn things around. But it really does not look too good. Robby Hammond, by now, has probably signed the contract with the Hops. The City will likely expedite grading as soon as possible, so there can be no going back. But this is the State of Play I wrote about last week – The Hillsboro We Are Getting Is Not The Hillsboro We Deserve. How could my story be more timely, sadly? The Troy Shinn article was one of the most revealing stories to break in Hillsboro in years- it smacks of cronyism, elitism, special interests, money, and influence. Leave baseball out of it because most people like it and like the team, but these leaders wreak on this issue. I mean… I am all but looking for Boss Hog to come rolling down Main Street.
Shame on you- on all of you. People are watching more now. This is an inflection point and all the lost records and bravado about how Commissions don’t really matter in the end only go so far. You can say you had the right to expedite this agreement, but that does not make it right. You can say Major League Baseball was pressuring you, but that does not make it right, and we don’t care. Take the team and go in that case. Hillsboro is better than this; at least, our people are. Maybe many of you forgot that or never knew to start with. Most of you have not been here all that long.
I am going to end this story the way I ended my last deep dive- here is what I closed with:
To all of you, our valued readers, I ask you to open your eyes a bit more. You may have to look up from your phone occasionally and look around. I know that is hard for me, but I do. But these things I am saying are real. These disparities exist, and the canyon between them is widening. And when I do look up, I see the world for what it is. Beautiful and Ugly things. Hatred and love. Lightness and Darkness. Like it always has been since Cain killed his brother, Abel.
Yes, we do deserve better here than we are getting. The balance of power does not belong to the people of Hillsboro – no, we are far from that. But we deserve to run our City for our people and their best interests- not for these other shiny things and big corporations.
REACTION FROM TWITTER ABOUT THE HILLSBORO HOPS FIASCO
Just great work by both @troydshinn and @chuckslothower at @law360, asking the follow-up questions on this stadium project and figuring out how a $160 million replacement for a $15.5 million Single-A stadium was approved so quickly: https://t.co/iXL8O1n9Ns
— Jason Notte (@Notteham) April 15, 2023
Some of the best findings:
1. The city cited an NDA as its excuse for not telling @Hillsboroparks that it would be destroying three ballfields to build the new stadium.
2. There was no public meeting about the stadium until March 7, and no public comment period whatsoever.
— Jason Notte (@Notteham) April 15, 2023
3. The city didn’t propose replacement fields (at middle schools) until the stadium deal was final.
4. Also, it turns out the Eugene Emeralds received $7.5 million in state funds to build a new stadium, and the Hops are seeking about $25 million of their own.
— Jason Notte (@Notteham) April 15, 2023
Based on 30 rooms a night, multiplied by 70 nights in a $200 hotel room, the visiting teams would bring in $50,500 a year of transient lodging tax if Hillsboro received 100% of all county and local tax revenue. Which they don’t.
— Hops Acountability Crew (@KeepHopsHonest) April 16, 2023
Happy Season #10. It’s a great night for @HillsboroHops baseball! https://t.co/AbSlCZpgOo
— Steve Callaway (@SteveCallaway2) April 11, 2023
Now if you got 30 fans from further than 50 miles to also stay in a hotel, that would be an additional $50,500.
So at maximum, the Hillsboro Hops generate $100,000 a year in TLT for Washington County and Hillboro.
And they want $18,000,000 in return.
— Hops Acountability Crew (@KeepHopsHonest) April 16, 2023
What? Hat day at school is the same day as home opener day? 🙌🏽 Here we go year 10! @HillsboroHops pic.twitter.com/AIPoN3Dfkw
— Gina Sanchez Roletto (@rolettog) April 11, 2023
Not just a @hillsborohops fan, but was also a host family when housing wasn’t provided in 2019 and 2020. Just rearranging some trinkets and gathered these gems from when @lpspeggy31 @marcos_tineo_14 @nickgrande2 lived here for a summer. #summersons #hijosdeverano pic.twitter.com/DQsBOYRVjy
— Gina Sanchez Roletto (@rolettog) April 17, 2023
Love it when the readers weigh in. Here’s what Hillsboro still owes on its current $15.5 million minor league stadium. https://t.co/gqywttLfG2
— Jason Notte (@Notteham) April 15, 2023
Sounds like the no growth faction is getting upset with the proposed new stadium. It would be nice if things never changed, the reality is they do. Farmland becomes homes and business. Our population grows so do our needs.
I think Mayor Calloway and the Board are doing a great job!
Time to expand growth into Helvetia and get that area growing.
Remind me again how plowing under three ballfields that bring in hundreds of games a year to build a stadium for a Single-A team that has a hard time cracking 1,000 in attendance classifies as “growth.” Or are you just hoping that the random Barenaked Ladies show this place might attract—because bands just love playing low-tier minor-league stadiums—will skyrocket Hillsboro to mediocrity?
Livestock excretes matter into Helvetia’s soil that makes more of a contribution to daily life in this place than this railroaded stadium plan ever will.
Also “Our population grows so do our needs.” I didn’t realize Single-A ball clubs that can’t fill stadiums were a $120 million public “need.” How desperate is Hillsboro to be considered “big time” that it throws that much money at small ball without public comment or vote? It seems las if a community that was so confident in its continued growth—and wasn’t just watching the Gain Share clock tick down—wouldn’t have to bull through something as small as a minor league stadium or would find a better solution than tearing up three ballfields. It isn’t as if the city still owes $8M+ on the old stadium or anything.
But keep shining the council’s shoes, tough guy: I’m sure they appreciate your efforts.
This is extremely frustrating as a parent of a baseball and softball player that frequents the youth fields at Hillsboro stadium on a weekly basis throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Our youth programs are struggling to find well maintained fields in this area. With as much spring rain that we get, just about the only fields that will hold any sort of water (even for a short period of time) are in that complex. We need the access to them. So many of the school fields are in disrepair and unusable.
As for women’s sports, I find that there is a huge equity issue in taking away a D1 Softball field as well. Does Hillsboro intend to provide a new field for PSU in the process or just kick them out?
Just a thought, but maybe City of Hillsboro should partner with Hillsboro School District to provide playable turf fields at ALL our high schools. Right now, only 1 HS has playable turf fields in the area. If, there is no plan to replace fields 4,5,6 then maybe turfing the softball and baseball fields at Liberty, Century, and Hill High would help to accommodate youth sports and tournaments that come to this area throughout the season. Another idea would be to design a new turf complex at Washington County Fairgrounds.
Youth sports and our community deserve an opportunity to have their voices heard about the long term impact of taking away these fields from hard working athletes.
Great ideas! But right now, decisions were made and money, Millions of it, pledged without thinking about our kids. Enhancing Brown Junior High School is not a great solution – not the right spot either. HPD and Parks work cooperatively already- I think your solution is great. But that would not actually add any fields – we should be doing that and adding fields just to stay even. Your thoughts are appreciated. Having been a youth Coach in every sport for decades I would be appalled at this and I am surprised more parents, coaches, and organizations seem to be taking this lying down. keep the comments and ideas flowing!
When the announcement was made in March that the new stadium would be built on top of the existing three recreation fields, I was excited, but disappointed and frustrated. Now learning that established public processes were cast aside is maddening. This article raises many questions and concerns about our city leadership…ones that need to be addressed immediately by the mayor and city council. Additionally, a real and transparent pubic process needs to take place to address the recreation field losses. Brown MS is a terrible idea on several levels. The city should look to Happy Valley’s Hood View Park, Portland’s Delta Park, Salem’s Wallace Marine Park or Medford’s Lithia & Driveway ballparks for the clearest ideas on how to design Class-A ballparks. The key for this region is an all-weather design to allow for year-round playability. But, that will come at a cost and take space. Shoehorning such a facility inside an established neighborhood is a recipe for failure. And, to tag on to the other commenter, the ball fields at the Hillsboro high schools need serious upgrades. Each needs the same playing surface and support facilities. No one school should be given a competitive advantage over the others. And the boys and girls programs should be treated equally.
Matt – The joy of youth baseball and softball can never be replicated by an A league average Minor League team with lagging attendance. If we do not look after the kids and rec players no one will. Clearly the City will not. I hope you will come to the meeting next week and a community gathering I am trying to pull together. Something has to change.