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If you were to make a Stadium Journey, put a Portland Timbers game at the top of your list. Coming to Providence Park is a remarkable experience in a growing league. Start with a historic stadium on par with Fenway, in terms of the unique character and modern upgrades. Add in a packed place full of passionate fans with a massive supporters group, and you have a sporting experience hard to match in the United States.
Though the Portland Timbers just joined the MLS in 2011, the history of the club goes back much further. Back in the old NASL, the Timbers were founded in 1975, and quickly, the Rose City fell in love with soccer. After a short, but spirited seven years, the team folded. Various stints in regional leagues followed until Portland came into the second tier of the US Soccer pyramid in 2001. With the same name and a devoted, increasing fan base, the city eventually was granted membership into MLS.
Their home stadium would be the facility that has been on the same parcel of land for nearly a century. All the way back in 1926, Multnomah Stadium was born, and humble beginnings featured the place hosting dog races and the occasional Civil War football game between Oregon and Oregon State. In 1956, the Beavers baseball team started playing there, and for the next several decades, baseball in some form usually played at the stadium now known as Civic. With the return of a Triple-A team, major renovations took place in 2001, with a name change to PGE Park. For baseball, the upgrades lasted a mere nine years, as Beavers owner Merritt Paulson focused on the Timbers achieving MLS status. What resulted was turning the historic stadium into a soccer-only facility. The Beavers left, and utilizing the earlier upgrades, PGE Park turned into Jeld-Wen Field (now Providence Park), a remarkably unique soccer stadium with unmatched character.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Local, Local, Local. Portlanders are proud of their city and state, as it shows in the food choices. Prominently displayed in front of several items, is the name of the company producing the concession. Tillamook Grilled Cheese ($6.00), Carlton Farms Pulled Pork ($6.75), Olympic Provisions Charcuterie Box ($9.50) and Stumptown Coffee ($3.50) are some examples of the quality. It also is interesting to see "Pasties" offered, which are commonly found across the pond. Think meat pie, but with chicken or vegetables in place of the meat.
While the offerings seem similar across most of the enclosed concourse, be sure to venture to the east side of the stadium, where an open-air concourse includes more varied stands. A surprising amount of offerings includes barbecue, stir-fry, burgers, Thai curry and Korean BBQ. Perhaps the best stand is at the end, where an excellent idea is executed. Portland is known for their numerous and amazing food carts. Each game, Soccer City Grill features one of four city food carts, with their specialties being offered. It's a great thing for both fans and local business.
You can't think Portland without beer, and that is covered mostly by Widmer Brothers Brewing products, which, of course, is locally-made. A 12-ounce costs $6, while a 20-ounce beer is $9, so it is pricey. Other beers are available, too, including Fort George, which is from Astoria. Coca-Cola is the soda provider.
While there are many beautiful new MLS stadiums that have popped up in the last ten years, you will be hard-pressed to find one with as much character as Providence Park. The original crescent-shaped grandstand remains, and nearly all of these sides are covered by a beautiful wooden roof. This comes in handy during the often rainy period that frequents Portland's non-summer months. History still reigns in this seating structure, as support beams are found in the bowl and a walkway separates new chairbacks from wooden benches. Retained from the baseball renovation in 2001 is a four-tiered stack of luxury suites in the corner, which fits quite well with the stadium. The downfall, however, is that seats are obstructed in Section 211 and severely blocked in upper 215, where one goal can not be seen.
Heading to the other side of the stadium, is the east stands, which feature "Portland" spelled out in white amongst the forest green seats. Much of this area is specialty seating, in the form of the Keybank Club. Aesthetically, it all looks good, and a roof also covers these sections. Finally, the south end is more understated, with just bleachers and open areas to mill around. Framing the background of this section is the historic Multnomah Athletic Club. Adding to the character, take a look at the windows of this club during the game, and you will see members working out on treadmills and stationary bikes, all while watching the Timbers. The scoreboard also sits at this end, and the video board is of very good quality, as it shows live action and replays. Providence Park is a remarkable historic structure that has become a terrific home for soccer. The great fans, which we will discuss in a few minutes, help to put the atmosphere over the top.
Providence Park sits just on the edge of downtown in the Goose Hollow section of the city. While there is not too much around the park, a fair number of pre-and-post-match establishments can be found. The Bitter End Pub and the Cheerful Bullpen are perhaps the two most popular places, and they are located across the street from the stadium on adjacent sides. Downtown is within walking distance, as just ten minutes along, Morrison Street leads into the heart of the city. Along the way, there are plenty of great pubs and restaurants to check out. For a true Portland experience, make sure to eat at a food cart and wash it down with a Voodoo Doughnut.
Portland's best attraction is a very short drive or light rail ride from Providence Park. Up on a hill to the west is Washington Park, where an entire day can be spent. While both the Oregon Zoo and Japanese Gardens are great, if there is one thing to see, it is the International Rose Test Garden. You will quickly find out why this is the Rose Cit,y as the sights and smells of the seemingly endless varieties of roses is something to behold.
Let's start with the Timbers Army, who number in the thousands and set the stage for the experience. Swallowing up the north end, the Army starts to line up outside the entrance before game-time. By the first whistle, an intimidating atmosphere has been set, and the chanting, singing and cheering does not stop. This is no different than any other MLS stadium; the difference is the sheer size and volume. Listen as the rest of the crowd joins in for chants such as: "P-T (clap clap) F-C" and "You Cannot Stop Us....We Are the Rose City". The 85th minute is reserved for "Can't Help Falling In Love", while the 80th minute features the rendition of "You Are My Sunshine", an emotional tribute in honor of Timber Jim and his late daughter.
Timber Jim is the heart and soul of the team's foundation and history. Starting back in the 70s, he would bring a chainsaw to the game and help to shape the raucous supporters. Eventually, a tradition grew where Jim would cut a slab from a log after each Timbers goal. In 2009, Jim retired and Timber Joey took over. He is the face of the club, and the ceremonial log-cutting continues after each goal, with slabs presented to the scorers and the goalkeeper (if they keep a clean sheet). During the match, watch (or listen) for Timber Joey making the rounds, displaying both the cut logs and his chainsaw.
The rest of the fans at the game are great and quite knowledgeable. Practically each match features a full stadium, and the season-ticket waiting list is extensive. Pretty much the whole place is wearing the team's kit or decked out in the Timbers' famed green. Overall, the atmosphere is authentic, and it sets the Portland Timbers experience apart.
If it were not for such a terrific public transportation system, the access to Providence Park would be the stadium's downfall. Thankfully, the MAX light rail features stops all throughout the city, and right next to Providence Park is a spot for both the Blue and Red lines. Extending out in all directions and into the suburbs, about half of Timbers fans use the light rail and though it certainly gets crowded at the end of games, this mode of transportation is best. You will also see many fans ride their bikes in this environmentally-conscious city, and the Timbers accommodate with a remarkable amount of bike parking.
Arriving by car is another matter, and the challenges found throughout area roads are surprising. Periodic traffic can be found on local highways (along with not always clear signs), while downtown, the streets are tight and at times confusing, especially with construction. For visitors, it's also a little frightening, seeing the light rails on the street with the cars. Parking is extremely limited around the stadium; however, parking garages are available downtown. This is the best option for those driving, and it is only $5 on the weekend to spend the whole day in the garage and just walk to the stadium, which is not too bad.
Inside Providence Park, the concourses can get cramped at times, which is certainly to be expected with an old facility. The more open east end helps to spread things out a bit. Bathrooms are adequate. It may be a good idea to avoid the halftime rush, as movement is limited in the covered concourse that serves most of the stadium's seating.
As expected, ticket prices are at the higher end of the league scale, with the sideline seats running over $70 and the cheapest seat in the house still costing more than $30. Pretty much every game is sold out, so if going through the box office, be sure to get an early jump on tickets. Through the secondary market, do not expect to save money, as games are very popular, with seats in demand. Despite the relative high cost, we're still talking about an event that is cheaper than the NFL, NHL, NBA and even high-level college football. Given the stadium, atmosphere and fans, this is an absolute must-visit and should be put on a sporting event bucket list. Be sure to experience a Timbers game, no matter the cost.
What is the greatest rivalry in US pro sports? Some may say Red Sox-Yankees or Packers-Bears. But for me, it is Timbers-Sounders. Don't believe me? Come to a game and check back. The passion and hatred between these two historic rivals runs deep, and when they play, it is more than a game. Even if you do not get the opportunity to see this derby live, read up on it or check out a game on TV.
Somewhat related, let's go back to the Timbers Army. There is almost an ongoing Tifo battle between the Army and Seattle, which is quite entertaining. A tifo is essentially a giant banner depicting the support of one's team. The one displayed by the Timbers Army in 2012 is epic. Seeing a tifo unveiled live at a game really is incredible, and provides the full appreciation of the work that goes into their creation.
Heading outside the stadium, the entrance to Providence Park features ivy-covered walls and an air of history. Included on the front wall is an awesome manual scoreboard that is featured to honor the old hand-changed scoreboard from inside the stadium. This board now features today's game info, along with an upcoming schedule of the next few games.
Continuing inside, the display in the east end concourse is worthy of some time. Set against a classy wooden background, pictures and descriptions illustrate the history of the site, stadium and team quite well. Finally, an extra point goes to the game-day staff. For each area that I ventured into before the game, I was met by a kind usher and the encouragement to take pictures and look around.
I may be biased by historic stadiums, but this one in Portland just hit me in the right spot. All the ingredients are here for a memorable experience: An urban sports facility right next to an active downtown, a unique stadium that wonderfully incorporates both old history and new modern, passionate fans who fill the stands and finally a boisterous atmosphere led by one of the largest and loudest supporter groups in the country. Providence Park is a special place and highly recommended for a pilgrimage.
I thought I was being smart. I planned to arrive at JELD-WEN Field for the Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders game about two hours early. I could get my place early in line, and be able to take a nice walk around the stadium before it was too crowded.
I was wrong.
I hopped off the MAX light rail, only to discover that there were approximately 5,000 Timber fans already waiting "" and singing...and yelling"¦and waving flags "" in a line that wrapped all the way around two sides of the large stadium.
That turned out to be a precursor for the amazing atmosphere that I would experience at JELD-WEN.
Food-Beverage: Expensive and just your average stadium fare.
Atmosphere: Best atmosphere in the US for soccer. Standing, singing chants, and camaraderie with your fellow fan. Love every minute of it.
Neighborhood: Lots of pubs/food in the neighborhood around the stadium. If you're a big time soccer fan, make sure you visit The Bitter End (corner of Burnside & 20th).
Fans: Loyal supporters pack Jeld-Wen every game. 18,627 of them. Most are on their feet all game. They are the reason for the 5 start atmosphere rating.
Access: Jeld-Wen is in downtown Portland. Parking is limited around the stadium and most locals travel by tram and/or bus. It's slow going on game day so get their early but be prepared for a late night. It will take you some time to get home.
Return on investment: Ticket prices are reasonable and very worth it.
The food is quite average, beer choices galore.
This is the best atmosphere for soccer. 16 sections designated just for the Timber's Army! Nothing better in the USA.
Portland has more breweries per capita than any other city in America. With this said many of those breweries have restaurants within walking distance from the stadium, plus at least 5 bars within sight from Jeld Wen FIeld.
With 16 sections designated for the supporter grounp I think there is enough said about the fans in this stadium.
Access is wonderful, the light rail, MAX, stops right next to the stadium. The stadium is in the center of downtown.
Overall to see the largest support group in the US in a sold out stadium is well worth the price.
First off, the Timbers Army alone is enough to blow away any other stadium. But even without the Army JW is a great stadium. Great location, I love how it is below ground level and good concourses. The food is great and fairly affordable. They even have gluten free hot dog buns. And I have to mention that not only do they have local beer, they have multiple choices, as well as a good variety of food (typical stadium food as well as BBQ ans asian fare.). I can't imagine a better stadium for MLS.
Jeld-Wen Field (formerly known as PGE Park) located in Portland, Ore. is the current home of the MLS Portland Timbers soccer franchise and the Portland State Vikings football team.
Previously a baseball park, a $31 million renovation in 2010 turned Jeld-Wen into one of coolest stadiums in MLS soccer. At around 22,000 max capacity, fan attendance is lively and nearly always a sell out. With the configuration of the stadium, fans are right on top of the action. One columnist even went as far as to say it was like watching soccer in a phone booth.
In a short span of time the Portland Timbers have grown into a prominent soccer club and set the standards for how an MLS stadium should look. Providence Park, home to the Portland Timbers was formerly known as PGE Park, Civic Stadium, and Jeld-Wen Field; which housed minor league baseball and college and semi pro football. In 2009, the City of Portland was at a crossroads of what the next major landmark and attraction would bring; A new baseball field? Possibly a casino? Thankfully Merit Paulson owner of the minor league baseball team at the time stepped in the mix and brought an MLS (Major League Soccer) franchise to The Rose City.
The stadium was first used for Major League Soccer for The Portland Timbers on April 14, 2011. Now, the stadium is referred to as the House of Pane and has recently become home for Portland’s new NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) The Portland Thorns.
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