The group determined to bring Major League Baseball to Oregon announced Monday that the future stadium’s entire workforce — from the employees behind the concession stands to the announcers in front of the television cameras — will be allowed to join a union.

The president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, Tom Chamberlain, told a cheering crowd that this would make the stadium “the only unionized sports arena in the state of Oregon.” He called the scope of the agreement between the federation of unions and the Portland Diamond Project “groundbreaking,” with the potential to touch anywhere from 1,500-2,500 new jobs. 

President of the Oregon AFL-CIO Tom Chamberlain and President of the Portland Diamond Project Craig Cheek signed an agreement Monday that states the future baseball stadium's entire workforce will be allowed to join a union.

President of the Oregon AFL-CIO Tom Chamberlain and President of the Portland Diamond Project Craig Cheek signed an agreement Monday that states the future baseball stadium’s entire workforce will be allowed to join a union.

Rebecca Ellis

That’s a dramatic figure when you compare it to the number of unionized workers at other sports outfits in Portland. Only the stagehands at the Trailblazers’ venue, Chamberlain says, are unionized. And he doesn’t believe there are any unionized workers employed at the Providence Park arena.

Portland’s still a long way away from seeing a gleaming 32,000-seat stadium standing on the western bank of the Willamette River. Officials announced a deal with the Port of Portland last November to redevelop a cargo terminal north of the Pearl District, but questions linger over whether the group will be able to actually build on the land, which is currently zoned for industrial uses and sits isolated from the city’s light rail system. 

The port has been given six more months to “study” the site, before it must start paying for exclusive negotiating rights.

The project’s spokesman told OPB in December, they “expect the first pitch to happen in 2022.” Craig Cheek, the president of the Portland Diamond Project, said Monday that it now looks like that pitch will be thrown in 2023. 

“There’s obviously a lot of details to work out,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler, who spoke at Monday’s event flanked by members from the Oregon AFL-CIO. “But throughout there is a strong, resolute and dedicated effort on all sides to get us to what we all want to get to, which is opening day in the great city of Portland.” 

Cheek says he is “supremely confident” Portland will gets its opening day.  In January, the project announced a group of 12 initial investors — including Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his superstar wife Ciara — who together had committed $1.3 billion to bring a Major League Baseball team to Portland. 

Cheek says the cost of the entire project, which includes an ambitious mixed-use housing development as well as the stadium, could hit three billion. 

“You never feel like you have enough money and enough commitments,” said Cheek. “We’re continuing to talk strategically with folks.”