MLS awards team to Portland for 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. — Surrounded by soccer fans and city officials, Major League Soccer (MLS) Commissioner Don Garber and Portland Timbers and Portland Beavers owner Merritt Paulson announced today that Portland has been awarded the league’s 18th team. The team will begin MLS play in 2011 in an improved, approximately 20,000-seat PGE Park. Paulson also announced that the new MLS team will keep the storied Portland Timbers name.

“Today is a historic day for Soccer City, USA, and it is a big win for our economy, our community, and soccer fans everywhere,” Paulson said. “We are in a position to make this announcement today because of our incredible fans and strong leadership from city leaders. Not only does this bring Major League Soccer to Portland, but it creates hundreds of jobs, protects taxpayers from risk and shines a positive national and international spotlight on Portland and the state of Oregon.”

Additionally, the announcement ensures the resumption of the long-standing rivalry among the Timbers, Seattle and Vancouver. Seattle opened its initial MLS season Thursday night at Qwest Field, and Vancouver was awarded the MLS’ 17th team on Wednesday. The geographic rivalry among the three teams dates back to the North American Soccer League (NASL) in the 1970s.

“This vision turned to reality is great not only for the Timbers, but for top-tier professional soccer in the entire region,” Paulson said. “One game into its MLS history, Seattle has enjoyed phenomenal success already, and we were very pleased to see Vancouver receive the league’s 17th team on Wednesday. Without a doubt, the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed for professional soccer, and, most importantly, we are excited for our fans.”

Paulson announced that season ticket sales would begin today. Individuals who purchase 2009 and 2010 Timbers season tickets will have top priority for 2011 MLS season seat selection. Likewise, business and entertainment suite-holders for the 2009 and 2010 Timbers season will have the first opportunity to purchase suites for the 2011 MLS Season.  Non-Timbers season ticket holders can place a $50 refundable deposit per seat to secure a priority 2011 MLS season seat selection. Call (503) 553-5555 or visit www.portlandtimbers.com for details.

“A city with such a storied soccer tradition deserves an MLS team, and we are proud to have Portland join the top level of professional soccer in our region,” Garber said. “Merritt Paulson and his family provide a vibrant and innovative ownership group that truly loves the world’s game and we believe PGE Park will provide a world-class soccer environment for soccer fans.”

The Timbers, who first entered the Portland professional sports landscape in the 1970s as a member of the NASL, will field a team in the United Soccer League’s First Division in 2009 and 2010. 

On March 11, the city council paved the way for today’s MLS announcement, voting to approve a proposal to improve PGE Park for MLS and to build a new ballpark for the Portland Beavers Triple-A baseball team at the site of the Memorial Coliseum. Both Paulson and Commissioner Garber said the MLS award is contingent upon Paulson reaching a final agreement with city and state officials over the next few months to implement the funding details of the plan.

“On behalf of the residents of Soccer City, USA, we are thrilled to become the newest – and greatest – MLS city,” said Mayor Sam Adams. “Along with Commissioner Leonard and my city council colleagues, I am committed to continuing to work with Merritt Paulson and others to finalize and implement the details of our stadium plans.”

"The presence of Major League Soccer in Portland will add greatly to the economy and the livability of our city," said Commissioner Randy Leonard. "The significant financial investment Merritt Paulson is making in Portland is very welcome in these challenging times, and his willingness to shelter taxpayers from risk in this undertaking is a testament to his commitment to our community."

The combined soccer and baseball plan is expected to create 600 short-term construction jobs and 300 long-term jobs with the two teams. Paulson has agreed to fund or guarantee a majority of the costs to purchase the MLS team and make improvements to PGE Park and build a new 9,000-seat Triple-A ballpark. In addition he has agreed to help fund improvements to city park and school fields over the next few years and to support a variety of community and youth events, such as high school sports and Special Olympics at PGE Park and the new Triple-A ballpark. Paulson has also agreed that a new memorial honoring Oregon veterans will be built at the site of the new ballpark.

ABOUT MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer is the top-flight professional soccer league in the United States and Canada. MLS features many stars from the U.S., Canada, and around the world. MLS kicked off its 14th season on March 19, and will feature 15 teams each playing 30 regular season matches. They include Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Chivas USA, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Toronto FC and, in its inaugural season, Seattle Sounders FC. A Philadelphia expansion team will debut in 2010, while expansion teams in Vancouver and Portland will debut in 2011. For more information about MLS, log on to the League’s official website at www.MLSnet.com.