On December 5th, 2023, the Hillsboro City Council will be forced to hear arguments against the approval that was granted by the City for the Hillsboro Hops to build a new Stadium, destroying three prime fields as they do so. The Gordon Faber Recreation Complex will never be the same, nor will Hillsboro, Oregon. The Hillsboro Hops continue to push forward one press release after another about the fact that they might have to leave if they do not get $20 Million more dollars from someone. We have all seen the stories. It is a matter of public record and has been for almost 3 weeks, that an appeal has been filed as allowed for by Oregon land use laws. Laws that allow anyone aggrieved to argue before a higher court.
How do I know about this pending fight? Because I am the person who filed the appeal.
Before you ask why a journalist would spend up to 10,000 dollars on a matter like this, you must understand this is not new territory for me. I have been successfully fighting for the people of Hillsboro when I know the cause is great and the desired outcome even greater. The process of a legal fight is guaranteed to us as Oregonians, and we must all learn to use it. In the past, I have won appeals individually and with supporters in a common cause. The Orenco Woods Nature Park, the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club, and the new Methodist Meeting House Historical site are all examples of places in Hillsboro that would not exist if I and others like me had not appealed approvals and decisions. So this is not new to me- this is part of the process of being a citizen.
So why appeal the Hillsboro Hop’s new stadium? Well, let me set the record straight:
- I like the Hops and what they bring to the table. Their mascot and brand of baseball is “fun,” and people like them!
- The Hops sell enough tickets to fill about 1/2 of the Ron Tonkin Field, and things have not improved over the last five years- they have plenty of seats and do not need more.
- The Hops averaged about 2,400 fans this year and dropped four spots to #94 out of 120 Minor League teams. We are one position below the Biloxi Shuckers. After a decade or more, the fan base has not grown, and it is unrealistic to assume they will ever fill Ron Tonkin Field every night. Source of info – https://ballparkdigest.com/2023/10/16/2023-milb-attendance-by-average/
- Yes – this entire issue of them needing to make improvements/renovations is not their fault specifically. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL is to blame because they and they alone have a mandate that minor league teams make improvements. These are things they want but not things they need. Baseball can be played in lesser fields, like where the Portland Pickles play in Portland. This team sold out all 44 games and averaged 3,300 fans in a collegiate wooden bat league with very poor amenities.
- If the Hops, a for-profit business owned by very wealthy people, needs to build a new stadium, they must pay for it. Some help is warranted by the people of Hillsboro or Washington County, but nothing close to what they are asking for oh, hang on – demanding! PAY OR WE LEAVE – has been the message.
- The City Council of Hillsboro continues to push for this approval, with members of the City Staff using the word “We” when referencing the Hops and the new Stadium.
- In March of 2023, the City Council held a work session in which they discussed previous plans that had been made to renovate the Ron Tonkin Field for the Hillsboro Hops. The Council made a unilateral decision without the advice or approval of the Hillsboro Parks and Recreation Commission to abandon a remodel plan and to build the Hops a new stadium. This circumventing of the PRC is against the City Charter of Hillsboro and is wrong! The PRC members remain adamant to this day that this is wrong and that they should have been consulted. Why weren’t they? The record shows the PRC would expect equitable treatment for our community members and not agree to everything. That was not what the Council wanted.
- The City Council also hired M.A. Mortenson Construction as an exclusive contractor to bid and build the new stadium. That meant no competing bids. The bid for renovating came in at $160 Million – but the proposal to build a new stadium was somehow only $120 Million. Come on, people – if you believe these numbers, I have an arch to sell you on Main Street! See this article for more of this background- https://www.hillsboronewstimes.com/news/local/parks-commissioners-not-pleased-with-hillsboros-process-on-new-baseball-stadium/article_e1a073c0-db15-11ed-962d-a7040ba803e7.html As a side note Mortenson was accused of bid rigging and other wrongdoing in Colorado a few years back and settled out of court for Millions. Nice builder partner the council selected.
- The Fix is in-, but that is not all. The City signed an agreement with the parties, and it requires that the ownership retain Hops General Manager KL Wombacher for 5 years- wait, what?
- The Mayor and other Councilors have season tickets to the Hops, and one, according to social media posts, has a child who has worked for the team- wait, what?
- The City also decided to give the Hillsboro Hops $18,000,000 in future revenue from our Transient Lodging Tax. All of it for years to come.
- The City Council has not decided who must pay for the lost fields – 4,5, and 6, and the Gordon Faber. When I opined in a public meeting that those fields would cost $30 Million to replace, I was scoffed at. The number $8 to $12 MIllion was tossed around. Guess what. They are now predicting the costs will be $25 to $30 Million. This is NOT PART of the $120 Million dollars to build the new stadium.
- The new stadium is NOT expected to be $120 MIllion- it will be $150 Million to $160 Million when the costs of replacing the fields is added in and other consulting fees are included.
- The Hillsboro Parks and Recreation Commission is adamant- the HOPS MUST PAY – for the fields they are destroying. They restated this last week and again were admonished for doing so. But they are 110% right. See their latest letter below.
- Over 500 people signed petitions against the new Hops stadium.
- The Hops continue to say they will probably have to leave – and a September 30th deadline has now been slid to this Friday – a deadline for what? For baseball to tell us all if they get more time. The reality is that the Hops and Hillsboroites are very happy as things are.
- The City and the Hops have turned up the heat on the fact that they want to have up to 36 major events at the Stadium for Rock Concerts and the like. Wait, this was supposed to be a new mandated baseball stadium. But now we see the truth – the Hops are not very profitable based on the numbers we believe exist (my opinion), and they need to become concert promoters to make big money. What a nice perk- a new 7,000 seat stadium, baseball, and rock concerts to boot! Oh, Joy!
- The City has already indicated that it will borrow construction money on bonds backed by our city (your money) to pay for the $18 MIllion in money we are promising. The reality is that number will climb very soon.
- The City waived the required Traffic Impact Analysis and studies, which are so crucial to protect our community- just waived them. That has never been done before and is unprecedented. I contend it is not ok- and not legally defensible. Even small projects, like a doggy daycare, have to pay tens of thousands for these studies and, moreover, do the work needed to improve roads and intersections as needed. That can kill a project- and given this location, I think the truth is the traffic in the area is already failing and simply can not handle any more traffic. We shall see.
I could go on- but does all of that smell right? NO- it certainly does not. This has become a project about making baseball fans who also happen to be in City Government happy, making the Hops some real dough, and about the City of Hillsboro having a nice shiny new object that it can brag about to all the other cities in the Region. Who cares if it means destroying the best recreational tournament complex in the Region? Who cares if the fix is in, and the reality is that the Ron Tonkin can be remodeled for the same or less? Who cares – it is just money, power, baseball, influence, cronyism, and, wait… oh yeah, rock concerts!
Many of you care.
The Parks and Recreation Commission Cares-
Our kids and adults who play softball and baseball at the GFRC care.
The facts are that this has gone too far- the City Council needs to back up. They must get more bids to remodel the Ron Tonkin Field and they must actually try to figure this out. The HOPS do not need more seats. The City must not purposefully destroy fields 4, 5 , and 6. The WIn-Win is to remodel and regroup. Period- end of story. Give the Hops $18 Million – for sure. Maybe they gets some help from the County or State. Maybe not. Either way this is the WIN-WIN for all and we need to take a deep breath and get to work on a remodel.
My fight is going to the City Council. The Hillsboro Planning and Zoning Hearings Board approved it over three meetings. Now, their approval will go to our 6 City Council people and the Mayor to decide. I expect they will push it through and deny my appeal. That’s OK. This sort of a mess is best settled in Salem and the Land Use Board of Appeals or another appropriate body. So, no decision will be final until the appeals are done. This could take another year or so.
I can not do this alone- and thank you all who have chipped in. I can use all your help and support. I need your help! And your voices at the hearing, too. You can chip in $5 or $500 through GoFundMe- 100% of all funds go to the legal council who I have hired- someone very good who specializes in these matters.