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Storm may get a roommate

The Lake Elsinore Storm baseball team may have a roommate next season – an Oregon team that will be homeless when its stadium is converted into a soccer-only field.

That possibly has been spotlighted by media reports even though no deals have formally been announced. A spokesman for the Storm said he was unable to confirm emerging press reports last week.

“Our official stance is we don’t know yet, because we don’t,” Steve Smaldone, director of Storm media relations, said in a telephone interview.

“They (deal makers) are trying to keep this in-house,” he said. “We don’t know much about it.”

Smaldone said he is watching news reports unfold along with baseball fans throughout Southern California and Portland, Ore.

“They (the Portland Beavers) are moving somewhere,” he said. “It’s all speculation where they’re going – here, Escondido, San Marcos… ”

Smaldone was asked by a reporter to react to stories published last week by Baseball America, Los Angeles Business and the Portland Business Journal. Baseball America broke the news last week by reporting that the Beavers “will likely land in Lake Elsinore, at least for the time being.”

The owner of the Triple-A Beavers is looking to relocate the franchise because its home stadium, PGE Park, will no longer be available. The park is being renovated because the Portland Timbers team was granted a franchise in Major League Soccer next year. The renovation will make the Timbers that park’s primary tenant.

The baseball team’s possible move has been closely followed by The San Diego Union Tribune. Last week, the newspaper reported that an ownership group led by Jeff Moorad, the Padres chief executive, is close to buying the Beavers and moving the franchise to a 9,000-seat ballpark to be built by Escondido for $45 million.

The Baseball America story also mentioned San Marcos as a possible future home for the team, noting that land has been graded and parking would be available at a state university campus there.

The Storm and Beavers are both affiliated with the Padres. The Storm is the Padres’ Class A affiliate team.

“The move to Southern California has been made possible in part by Storm owner Gary Jacobs, who is a longtime Padres board member,” the Baseball America story stated. “Jacobs would likely have a stake in the new Portland ownership group, assuming the team does make the move to Southern California.”

Jacobs and Les Simon have been co-owners of the Storm for the past nine years, according to the team’s Internet site.

Despite initial concerns among some residents over Lake Elsinore’s future debt obligation, the city put workers on overtime and pushed hard to open The Diamond stadium in 1994 for the team’s opening season.

The Storm is one of five Minor League teams scattered throughout Southern California. The other teams are in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Lancaster and Adelanto. Sports Illustrated has described The Diamond as perhaps the most idyllic in the Minor Leagues.

The stadium can seat more than 8,000 baseball fans in 6,066 fixed seats, 11 luxury suites and a sloping, grassy area. The stadium contains a restaurant and a children’s play zone.

Smaldone said The Diamond could accommodate two teams, especially since one could play home games while the other is away.

“It’s possible,” he said. “There would probably be a game (played there) every day.”

He noted that this is a banner year for the Storm as it sets its sights on the playoffs in the 10-team California League.

For the first time, the Storm leads the league in attendance with its 3,400-per-game spectator average, he said. With 52 home games under the team’s belt this season, the Storm thus far has seen about 172,000 fans pass through its turnstiles, he said.

Hosting the Beavers could attract a far wider and more diverse spectator base to the stadium. That would likely add to, not siphon away, loyal Storm fans, he said.

“It would only help our attendance,” Smaldone said. “I think it would.”

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