BY DOUG MACKAR
Think it’s been tough getting tickets to a Portland Timbers’ home game in the past? The fact that they won the MLS Cup in 2015 certainly didn’t make it any easier. Well, things are about to get a whole lot worse. Stadium Journey Magazine just voted Providence Park, the Timbers’ home turf, the 11th best place to watch a sporting event in America.
Staff members from SJM visited 761 professional, minor league and college stadiums throughout the country and put together what they consider the “top 100 stadium experiences”. This list has a little bit of everything. We’re talking baseball, football, soccer, hockey, auto racing, the Kentucky Derby and somehow even one professional lacrosse arena snuck in there.
For anyone who has ever seen a Timbers game up close, this high praise should come as no surprise, but still, it’s nice to see Portland soccer up there with American sports icons Camden Yard and the Daytona 500.
The magazine calls the stadium “a facility that combines the past and present and merges it into a one-of-a-kind facility.” But Providence Park, which has been around since 1926, couldn’t possibly be one-of-a-kind without the Timbers Army and the rest of fans that make the Timbers game day experience truly unique.
The Timbers have sold out every single home game since entering MLS in 2011. That’s over 100 straight sellouts, folks. That’s passion. That’s Portland. In May 2015, Justin Surber, Oregon Sports News writer, wrote, “a Timbers game at Providence Park is a near-perfect representation of the city of Portland and its character (and characters)”.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ Moda Center made the list at #31, and the Oregon Ducks’ Autzen Stadium came in at #86. And then there’s those damn Sounders again. Seattle Sounders FC and CenturyLink Field made the list at #29.
The rivals up north have been setting MLS attendance records since entering the league in 2009. The Sounders averaged twice as many fans at their games in 2016 than the Timbers. That’s an average of 42,636 soccer fans. At a soccer game. In America. Wow. It should come as no surprise, though, which game boosted that average up the most. Yup, you guessed it. Portland Timbers. On Aug 21 last season, the Sounders/Timbers rivalry game drew 53,302 rabid fans to the Clink.
Providence Park seats 21,144 fans. Not going to be catching up to any Sounders attendance records anytime soon, but here’s the good news: The Oregonian reported that expansion is a potential in the near future. The bad news, is that expansion doesn’t seem anywhere near enough supply to keep up with the every-increasing demand. With a seating capacity of 21,144 and a wait list for season tickets at nearly 13,000, the idea of adding an additional 3,’500 seats already feels like way too little, not nearly soon enough.
When you start to think about it, though, is adding even one more seat to the stadium really good news? Like a pot ready to boil over, the intense atmosphere at Timbers games thrives on the intimate nature of Providence Park. I know it’s weird in this day-in-age to ignore the market and refuse to expand, but as far as the Timbers go, I’d much rather they do nothing but Keep Portland Weird.