Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson: Time was right to "pass the baton" on stadium naming rights

PORTLAND, Ore. – JELD-WEN Field and its famed, raucous atmosphere as the home of the Portland Timbers has become synonymous with the club’s presence in MLS.

But according to team owner and president Merritt Paulson, with the team’s long-term growth in mind, the time was right to “pass the baton” of the stadium’s naming rights. The Timbers' new, 15-year agreement with not-for-profit health care provider Providence Health & Services, announced during a press conference Monday at what is now Providence Park, is intended to create stability to help with the club’s continued growth.

“It’s important to us and our fans as we continue to put the best team possible on the field,” Paulson said to the media after the announcement. “These kinds of deals are just critical for our success.”

Paulson said the fact that the club is partnering with Oregon’s largest private employer helps keep the venue’s connectivity with the community intact. JELD-WEN, a window-and-door company that held the stadium’s naming rights for the Timbers’ first three seasons in MLS, will remain a sponsor as a “Founding Partner.”

Paulson said partnering with Providence made sense on many levels.

They are the kit sponsor for the Portland Thorns, the NWSL franchise also owned by Paulson, and operate the Providence Sports Care Center, a 12,000-square foot sports-care facility constructed as part of the stadium’s renovation three years ago.

“It’s terrific,” Paulson said. “Providence Park is going to be the name on this venue for years to come and what it means to the community is quite significant. Providence, like us, is so passionate about community outreach and this is going to be the hub of all their efforts.”

The partnership also includes the revival of the Special Olympics Oregon Fall Games, which was discontinued in 2008, partnering with Timbers outreach efforts through the club’s Stand Together program and partnering on youth soccer camps and other field-related projects. Providence also becomes a Founding Partner on the Timbers’ Hispanic community outreach platform, “Somos Timbers.”

The two organizations’ similarities in promoting health initiatives in their community outreach wasn’t lost on Providence chief executive Dave Underriner, either.

“It’s building on the notion that health care is changing,” Underriner said. “We’ve got to look at the whole picture, and how do we do that different, and this is a great opportunity for us.”

Paulson said the partnership doesn’t affect any future plans for stadium expansion or improvements. He also added that Alaska Airlines will remain the club’s kit sponsor for the 2014 season, the last year in that deal. He said he hopes an agreement is reached to extend the deal beyond the upcoming season.

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.