Before the April 23 Portland Timbers match against Real Salt Lake, midfielder George Fochive, Timbers GM/president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson and club president of business Mike Golub met with 50 General Admission Annual Members to discussa wide range of topics about the club, on and off the field. Here are a few key quotes from the topics discussed that we wanted to share. These Open Houses are part of our list of club initiatives committing to create additional opportunities to hear from our supporters this season.
Editor's note, these quotes have been edited for written form and intent, or combined from multiple answers at the event.
Panelists - George Fochive, Mike Golub, Gavin Wilkinson, Sr. VP of Fan Experience and Events Ashley Highsmith and VP of Member Services and Ticket Strategy Chris Wilson
Mike Golub on the likelihood of grass at Providence Park and its impact on FIFA/US Soccer Matches:
"We all agree on the preference for a natural grass pitch here at Providence Park. However, our turf continues to be the best in class and widely regarded as one of the best artificial surfaces. And in recent and positive news, US Soccer wants the national team to come back to Portland and our surface is not an impediment to that. Had logistics been different this past February, Providence Park would have hosted one of the US World Cup Qualifying matches. In order to limit travel time, US Soccer decided to play the matches in Minnesota and Ohio, rather than on the west coast."
Gavin Wilkinson on the impact of the past 6 months taking away the passion the supporters feel for this club, and what is the club doing to address that:
"As someone who has played here, coached here, and been the GM for the Timbers and Thorns for over 10 years, I can tell you I do understand that pain and anguish. What I want to share, is that throughout all of this we have, at every turn, tried to do the right thing and supported those involved. With hindsight, we absolutely would have done things differently and it is an ongoing process putting systems in place to ensure that we do. We really want our supporters to look at the facts, there was never any intent to cover up these incidents and look forward to any investigation that sheds light on this. The MLS investigation did that, substantiating that we believed we were compliant at the time and acted in good faith throughout. Through this experience, we can now see that there are numerous ways we can better support our players and their families and are looking forward to doing so moving forward."
Ashley Highsmith on the desire for a return of the Food Cart Alliance:
"We loved the program, and we are constantly basis to identify how we can improve the concessions experience at Providence Park. It is a unique building with a lot of challenges when it comes to space, culinary facilities, and the challenge that soccer matches are difficult to service with no timeouts and only 1 break at half. Our food cart program was popular, but also asked a lot for the partners to come into a new facility and on short timetables prepare and serve a high volume of their product, so finding the right partners became key as running out of the food we were highlighting was also an issue we ran into. We would love to add more local options and variety and look forward to adding more partners like local food carts where we see the opportunity."
Chris Wilson on the Annual Membership benefit approach:
"The first rule we apply is that no one benefit will make everyone feel valued and need to have a wide range. We look at 3 key buckets where we want to deliver unique benefits, so that you do feel valued.
- Value – We want to ensure that the price is competitive, over the course of all events, while also adding discounts like our new pregame concessions discount (10%). We also added in our Thorns ticket offer so Timbers fans could go to one Thorns match, as part of their package.
- Tangible – Getting “something” like a gift is very important. In the past, we would offer this through an Early Renewal deadline, but due to the pandemic and wanting to increase the number of accounts who got gifts, all Annual Members were eligible for 2 gifts, and based on spend, some even could get 3. They are in the mail, I can assure you, and we look forward to finally getting them out to you.
- Experiential – This one has been the toughest to accomplish with COVID, and this Open House is one of the events we added as part of adding more this season. We are working on an Open Practice in the summer for fans to come out and watch the team and hope to add more match day elements over time once we have clearance from the League and team from a safety perspective.” – Chris Wilson – VP of Member Services & Ticket Strategy"