Timbers' reconstructed stadium scores with fans
As the last 30-minute countdown to the Timber's home opener against Los Angeles Football Club, there was an electric atmosphere at Providence Park.
The expanded east side stand towers over the field and is taller than the rest of the stadium. Three new levels have been added over the old Key Bank Club level, bringing in new fans, or just relocating old ones. On a late spring evening the setting sun burnished the steel roof as people chatted and selfied on the concrete decks at either end, where there are views of the three mountains and all of downtown.
Hanging out on the Duracell Deck was a Timbers Army regular, Charlie Raymond, who had strolled in from the North End and took the elevator to the fourth level. "I wanted to see what the views were," said Raymond. "I just took a picture of Mount St. Helens and I'm going to text it to a friend. That's Mt. Adams right there and that's Mount Hood," he said pointing with his phone.
He was number 9,000 on the season ticket waiting list but when his number came up there were no Timbers Army seats available so he didn't buy. Instead Raymond borrows his son's, who moved away. He sits in 206, the upper section of the Army, with a bunch of pals who have been there since 2013. They have a thing for criticizing referees and made their own red and yellow cards that they brandish.
"My son and his ex used to have season tickets in the Army. And when they split up she got the house, he got the Timbers tickets," Raymond said. "He met a woman in Bend and moved there. So, I got the tickets. And he has all my sympathy."
In the upper decks
Sitting high on the top tier, where there are five rows of seats on a steep incline, Ryan and Angela Brooks were also taking in the view afforded by their newly purchased season tickets which cost "eleven hundred bucks or something" each.
"It's pretty high," Ryan said of the elevation. They could look down on the Timbers Army, and on the North End's roof too.
They waited a long time for them and this was what's was available. Angela shrugged and said they would have preferred to be closer to the pitch, but they weren't complaining.
"We've lived here about seven years and tried to get season tickets because we're both big soccer players and we came from a city that doesn't have an MLS team, St Louis."
Some people in the stands were enjoying their own handiwork. Keith Alnwick, who was there with Denea Mesa, works at Allied Works Architecture, the firm down the block which designed the new stand. Alnwick did design and research, looking at stadia all over the world to come up with a concept that fit the tight space.
"We heard about this project after that 2015 MLS Cup victory and my boss, Brad (Cloepfil) approached Mike Golub (President of Business) and said, 'Give us 60 days to come up with an idea for the stadium.' And so we just buckled down."
The firm has had season tickets since 2011, so the pair pick them up when available. Alniwck is also a member of the 107 Independent Supporters Trust. "We're ecstatic. To be at this level, and to see the entire pitch spread out as the teams are warming up is something I've never experienced before."
Mike Dutton, an engineer with KPFF, was on the south end at one of the concrete plazas level with the goal line. He's a season ticket holder in the Timbers Army but wanted to celebrate the stand's opening. KPFF was the project engineer. "It's definitely a fun project," said Dutton, who was trying to concentrate on the game.
Nico Balster worked on the stand for a year as a superintendent on the concrete work. The structure's metal roof can hang so far over the pitch because of the steel and concrete that ties deep into the ground next to the sidewalk. He marveled that the plazas at the north and south ends cantilever over the rest of the stadium. Everything is a balancing act.
"Was it difficult? Yes, absolutely. There are all kinds of constraints being able to having to build in an occupied stadium where there were games happening regular basis. The whole structure it wants to roll but the engineering is absolutely brilliant. It's a challenging design. I'm nerding out on concrete," he said, eyes shining in the sunset.
Balster said he missed the opportunity to buy a season ticket, and was offered no special deal. "I'm just going to buy a single game ticket whenever I can," he said.
Up with the LA fans
With plenty of leg room, everyone was sitting. As with other parts of the stadium, there wasn't the crush of humanity it takes to get a good chant going.
The Timbers have milked the stand for sponsor opportunities, with electronic tickers in view of the cameras, and corporate names for every piece. One level below the top, on the Toyota Terrace, Chip McMakin was having a half-time beer. The lines were short. He used to be a season ticket holder in the Timbers Army. Now he has switched so it will be easier to bring his sons, age 7 and 11, where it is less crowded and you don't have to arrive half a day early for general admission spots.
"I'll go back and forth over the season," McMakin said. "I've already bought down there (in the North End) for the Seattle game. But this is better for my family. I can't wait to go down there and look back and kind of get a sense of what it's adding. But I can see the soccer much better on this side, the tactics."
Up in what could be the worst seats in the house, top corner sections 222 and 223 where they put the visiting team fans, the LAFC supporters were giving a master class in atmosphere. Eighteen months ago, they sprang out of nowhere because the expansion team hadn't played a game.
But they came in strength on Saturday, packing their two sections and singing and jumping around for the full three hours they were in the stadium. It didn't hurt that the team has the best record this season, and it was a summer day with no work to rush back to. Dressed in black like their team, almost of all of the LAFC fans wore black baseball caps and wore sunglasses.
They were a more imposing presence in Providence Park than even Seattle. Although they got into some verbal spats with the Timbers families to their left, they were good natured after the win. With no buses to be herded on to, they stopped to chat and high-five with passing Timbers fans, many remarking that they loved Portland the city. Then they headed east to the Starlight Parade, the fair and whatever downtown had to offer on a Saturday night.