Longtime guest services staffer Roland Ilg retires after 30 years of service at the stadium
A fixture at JELD-WEN Field for over 30 years, guest services attendant Roland Ilg retired today with a special party in the KeyBank Club for staff and friends.
Generations of fans from various teams—Portland Timbers, Thorns FC, Portland State Vikings, Portland Beavers, Portland Rockies and more—may remember his smiling face at the southeastern corner of the stadium. Usually stationed at the old “Gate 35”, now known as Gate 1 near the Providence Sports Care Center, Ilg could be found greeting fans along with one of his trusty dogs.
But when Ilg began at the then Civic Stadium in 1980, there was no sports care center. In fact, there wasn’t much of any cover at all until Ilg commandeered a portable shed from the Portland Expo Center that became the little green Gate 35 hut. Prior to that, Ilg would stand at his post in every kind of weather imaginable.
“I used to stand out at Gate 35 with a yellow rain coat,” he said. “I did that for I don’t know how many years.”
Ever resourceful, Ilg looked to improve his predicament. He had been working for a courier company that ran a loop route between the Expo Center, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the stadium. Seeing new parking attendant sheds being installed at the Expo Center, Ilg managed to save one of the old ones prior to it being taken to the dump. He then brought it back to the stadium but, he said, “I got kind of in trouble over that. I finally had to go to the general manager and talk to him.”
Ilg’s commitment persevered as the hut has been there ever since, helping protect staffers from the elements.
A veteran of both the Swiss and U.S. Army, Ilg was also a noted baker who never had need for the oven temperature control settings. An instructor at a culinary institute, he would simply open an oven, wave his arm to gauge the heat and he could just tell if it had the right feel. While he doesn’t bake as much these days, he did say he was bringing a little something to the KeyBank Club this afternoon.
Chuckling, he said, “I just made a couple of loaves of bread today to bring down to the retirement party.”
A dog lover, Ilg could often be seen with one of his trusty companions around the park. Dusty helped greet fans until her passing in 2011 and now Bebe has been a constant partner at games and events. He even managed to grab an extra Timbers guest services jacket and cut it to size for her to wear at games.
“When I get it out to put on her, oh boy, she’s right there. She doesn’t leave me,” he said. “She likes to go down to the stadium. Fans often ask me if the dog is around before anything else. Some kids when they come in through the door, they run for the dog.”
While Ilg worked hundreds of games and events—Billy Graham’s visit in 1992 was probably the biggest crowd he can remember—he says his favorite part about working at JELD-WEN Field was getting to meet the fans.
“I’m kind of a people person,” he said. “It’s nice to be around all the people. I got to know so many people and I still sometimes go to the grocery store and people come up to me and say, ‘You know, you used to take my tickets!’”
Still a fan himself, Ilg plans on coming to Timbers and Thorns games as a spectator. But he also knows that after an incredible run of guest service excellence, he’s leaving the organization on a high note given that the Thorns won the 2013 NWSL championship and the Timbers are racing into the MLS playoffs.
“I said to myself, it’s kind of nice to get out of the deal on a winning streak.”