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Official Review by Paul Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Merlo Field, situated on the campus of the University of Portland, is the home for the second year Portland T2 (Timbers 2). T2 are members of the USL, which is a third tier professional soccer league with MLS being the first tier and the NASL being the second tier. T2 is the reserve squad for the parent team, Portland Timbers.
Built in 1990 to accommodate 4,892 fans, Merlo Field has hosted a myriad of soccer milestones in its history. Portland Pilot soccer boasts WCC titles, NCAA playoff appearances, NCAA College Cups, and two National Titles. Professional soccer also has made its mark on Merlo Field. There was an MLS exhibition between the Timbers (an NASL team at the time) and the San Jose Earthquakes in 2008, and an exhibition match in 2010 versus English Premier League team Manchester City.
Soccer has a rich heritage in Portland from college to professional and the T2 team is just the latest chapter in the city’s sports history.
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".
There isn't much to choose from here. There is a limited menu at the concession stand, and there are only a few choices apart from that. What is available is good, but that doesn't make up for the lack of variety. Hot dogs are $5 (Zenner's dogs - a Portland staple), sodas ($3-$4), coffee ($2), kettle korn ($3-$5), Widmer beer ($7.25), and so on.
The exception to that standard fare is a food cart (van) called Nong's Khao Man Gai. Khao Man Gai with chicken and rice or the vegetarian version is available for $8. If you are content with run of the mill stadium food, you are covered. If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, you might want to eat before you get to the match.
During our visit in 2015, there didn't seem to be much of a buzz in the stadium about the match. This could be because of the team's record, but there didn't seem to be much excitement other than the drum section that led the crowd in cheers. The cheers from the drum section last most of the first half, and a good portion of the second half. The lack of excitement before the match might be a negative for some, but once the game starts, things pick up.
Merlo Field and the University of Portland reside in the University Park neighborhood of St. Johns, one of the oldest sections of Portland. The school sits on a bluff that overlooks the Willamette River, the Swan Island area and off in the distance, you can see downtown Portland, a very picturesque scene indeed.
One of the local attractions is McMenamin's St. Johns Pub & Theater, where you can get a beer, dinner, watch a movie, or get all 3 at the same time. The Fishwife Seafood Restaurant is also close to Merlo Field. If you are looking for a place to stay, there are few options close to the field, so downtown is the next closest area to find lodging.
Portland seems to have very knowledgeable fans and they don't mind expressing their views. They can be loud and boisterous, but respectful at the same time. This reviewer didn't hear any vulgarities or coarse language of any kind. That's definitely a plus for families with small kids. It's much easier spending money on something when you know you won't have to put up with some of the more "colorful" fans. The fans in attendance are fully engaged in the game and make noise when the moments warrant it.
There is plenty of parking available at Merlo Field. There is an on campus parking lot that usually fills up first, but there is an abundant amount of open parking on the street. At worst, one would have to walk only a few blocks to get to the field.
Once inside, walkways are wide and can accommodate a capacity crowd. The stands are what you might find at a high school field, but there are a few sections with chairback seats. There is plenty of room for fans that don't get around very well. The bathrooms are on the small side, but are adequate for the crowd size.
Single game tickets range from $10-$15. Based on the ticket price, if you are really into soccer, it is well worth the price of a ticket. With ever increasing prices for sporting events and entertainment, this is a great option for fans on a limited budget because you get good soccer at an affordable price.
A game at Merlo Field is bare bones, no frills sporting event. About the only "extra" I found was a Plinko game sponsored by the University of Portland.
If you're looking for souvenirs, they are available for T2, Timbers, and Thorns FC. Among the items on display include shirts ($25-$35), hats ($20-$30), scarves ($25), mini soccer balls ($15), and Topps MLS cards ($3).
Merlo Field provides an enjoyable visit. Even if you're not a soccer fan, after attending a T2 game, you will be more apt to attend another soccer match. You always hear people say "I would much rather attend a game than watch it on TV," and that sentiment is in play here. Even though the ratings might not reflect it, I would absolutely recommend a T2 game to anyone.
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8203 North Ivanhoe
Portland, OR 97203
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