Since the Portland Timbers’ arrival in Major League Soccer in 2011 and the addition of Portland Thorns FC and the National Women’s Soccer League in 2013, Providence Park has become one of the foremost venues in North American soccer. It has won numerous awards for its unrivaled fan experience and atmosphere and has been named FourFourTwo’s Best Stadium for Soccer in the United States as well as the top MLS stadium experience across all sports by StadiumJourney.com.
Originally built in 1926 in the downtown core of Portland, its 91-year history has seen the likes of soccer, football, baseball, dog racing, concerts, ski jumping, presidential visits and much more. Now nearly a century since it first opened, Providence Park is poised for another transformation. An already great stadium for sport will become an even greater cathedral for soccer, while helping meet the ever-increasing demand for tickets.
Club leaders have proposed a modern, yet historically influenced $50 million-plus, privately financed expansion project for the east side that would add approximately 4,000 new seats, a striking new street-level colonnade and an iconic, modernized expansion—all at no cost to the city or public. An expanded Providence Park will make the stadium viable for the future and help ensure that Timbers and Thorns FC remain in their unique downtown location long-term, well beyond the expiration of the current operating agreement in 2035.
The proposed design by internationally renowned and Portland-based architecture firm Allied Works would add a 93-foot high covered structure on the east side of the stadium, taking a vertical approach to a relatively small footprint while integrating well with the existing stadium. The proposed project includes four new levels on the expanded east side, with three of the four levels created for reserved and group seating sections to help meet demand, while including a unique, pedestrian-friendly public arcade along SW 18th Avenue.
While Providence Park is already a top destination for soccer, challenges for the future remain. The stadium has sold out for every single Timbers regular-season and playoff match at home since the club’s inaugural MLS season in 2011. The Timbers currently have an ever-growing waiting list of more than 13,000 fans for season tickets. MLS matchday ticket demand for the available supply is at a premium. In short, more people want to get in than can be accommodated.
“Providence Park is one of the most special stadiums in sports,” said Mike Golub, president of business for the Timbers and Thorns FC. “With our proposed expansion, we will enhance the incomparable fan experience and intimacy and provide the opportunity for some of the more than 13,000 members of the waiting list to become season ticket holders.”
Additionally, MLS is evolving rapidly as the league continues to grow in all areas and additional expansion teams come on line in the upcoming years. Stadia in Major League Soccer are growing in size and the rising economics of the league are making it increasingly challenging to compete, as Providence Park – with an existing capacity of 21,144 for soccer – currently ranks in the bottom half of the league in terms of size.
Inspired in part by the famous Shakespearean Globe Theatre in London and the iconic La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires—both with their upright vertical seating areas and literal on-top-of-the-action perspective—the new Providence Park expansion would complete the full U-shape stadium design as was envisioned by the original then-Multnomah Stadium architects of A.E. Doyle and Morris Whitehouse in 1925. The end result would “finish” the stadium after almost 100 years, completing a transformation to a fully realized, urban soccer stadium.
“The expansion of Providence Park will continue to honor the rich history and traditions of the stadium and city of Portland and marry them with the best of modern stadia,” said Golub.
This private investment into the city-owned venue also goes a long way towards keeping the club’s unique urban environment viable well beyond its current operating agreement. The added capacity to the century-old, community gathering space will better position it to attract additional, larger-scale soccer and special events, and will benefit other stadium users, such as Portland State University football. The expansion and ensuing increased capacity and public use would substantially increase the city ticket tax revenue that benefits directly back to the City of Portland.
While the team continues to work with the city and neighborhood association on specifics of the proposed project and the initial design-review process commences, the potential construction timeline would include a two-offseason process, beginning either at the conclusion of the 2017 or 2018 season at Providence Park and concluding in time for either the beginning of the 2019 or 2020 MLS season.
“This proposed project is a win-win for everyone involved, and we’ve been very encouraged by the collaborative work that’s been put into this project to date,” said Golub. “We still have some work to do, but we are actively working with the city and neighborhood association, and everyone is excited by the prospect of an expanded Providence Park and ensuring the long-term viability of this unique stadium.”