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Portland Diamond Project adds star power to MLB franchise drive

The local management group behind efforts to bring a Major League Baseball (MLB) team to the US city of Portland has announced that NFL American football star Russell Wilson and his wife, singer Ciara, have signed on as owners/investors in the project.

Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, and Ciara become the first outside investors to publicly support Portland Diamond Project (PDP). Wilson is also a partner in an initiative to bring an NBA basketball team to Seattle.

“We believe Portland is the next great Major League Baseball city, and that's why Ciara and I are excited to announce we are a part of the Portland Diamond Project,” Wilson said. “It is time for MLB in Portland.”

PDP launched last month and in April placed offers on two sites on which it hopes to develop a 32,000-seat ballpark and 8,000 units of housing. The organisation is seeking an MLB team by 2022 at the earliest and spokesman John McIsaac told The Oregonian newspaper that Wilson and Ciara have pledged to hold a minority ownership stake should the effort prove successful.

Craig Cheek, a former executive with US sportswear company Nike, is founder and president of PDP. He said in a statement: “Having Russell and Ciara sign on as owners and investors in PDP is game-changing, and has elevated our campaign significantly.

“I got to know Russell and Ciara when we signed Russell to his Nike endorsement deal. I saw firsthand their passion, pursuit of excellence and impact they bring to every endeavour. We know they will bring that same energy, sense of legacy and entrepreneurialism to the Portland Diamond Project.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred this month said he would like the league to expand by two teams. This would take MLB to 32 franchises, with Manfred having previously cited Montreal, Charlotte and Mexico City as early favourites.