Folks, there won’t be any ruminating on, oh, every freaking facet of NYCFC and their issues with Yankee Stadium and the rest of that operational mess here. Even if you establish a rule, New York finds a way to be the exception. Someone’s bellyaching is really beginning to annoy me.
I’ll start small: Eugene Weekly has a little interview with people involved in a plan to renovate old Civic Stadium for soccer. USLPRO at that. The thing I didn’t know was that they’ll now involve KidSports, Eugene’s overarching youth recreational sports program. Maybe that merits the handful of millions of dollars the project requires?
However, a cautionary tale. These artificial turf fields aren’t all they’re sold to be. Thanks to the lads at 5 Minutes To Kickoff for the link. Frankly, witnessing how CenturyLink Field has operated for many years now, not to mention my time witnessing how fields are rehabbed in Boise, this isn’t exactly news to me. What really is required is more fields. At least Boise has the space for it.
The turf issues infuses the rest of this little ditty. Which brings us home.
When 5mTKO brought up the turf issue, the next question was obvious: what happened to the possibility that Portland State would get rid of football so the Timbers really could tear up the rubber and lay down real grass?
A funny thing happened on the way to that seeming eventuality. PSU President Wim Wiewel mandated that football pay for itself. The athletic department is rather emphatic that the program made money this year, despite crowds that looked like this one on October 18:
The basis of the claim: college football teams are paid by the host team to travel to that city to play. Portland State played at Oregon State and Washington State in 2014. Each school paid Portland State $500,000 to play, so that’s the $1 million that really mattered to Portland State.
An aside- the major conferences (including the Pac-12) won a form of autonomy within the NCAA governance structure last year. One of the proposals going forward is to cease scheduling Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as 1-AA) schools. Since the Southeastern Conference is known to like to load up on cupcakes, I don’t see that proposal passing, but a modified proposal to limit the number of such games could easily happen. As Portland State is clearly counting on two payout games- also known as “bodybag games” since the lesser team can count on having a handful of players getting injured- per year to make budget, the big schools may yet end up determining Portland State’s football fate.
There are two other reasons for Portland State to be protective of football, and neither of them have anything to do with football being the “biggest sport” at nearly every institution:
(1) Montana brings the away fans; that usually causes a crowd north of 10,000 in Portland, even in bad years. Montana State travels almost as well. In a scheduling quirk with thanks to conference expansion, both schools come to Portland this year (Montana State October 17, Montana October 31). It will be Portland State’s best drawing season in some time, barring a boycott or thereabouts.
(2) If Portland State drops football, it’s possible they lose Big Sky Conference membership. The next realistic Division 1 alternative is the Western Athletic Conference, and while trips for volleyball and soccer teams to Bozeman and Greeley and Flagstaff and Grand Forks are bad enough, try Chicago, Kansas City, Las Cruces (New Mexico), and Edinburg (Texas).
So, while President Wiewel wishes the school didn’t have football, he clearly allowed the athletic department (and probably the boosters, the other people with money) to choose the new athletic director. Both of the candidates they brought in to interview had football backgrounds. Mark Rountree was announced as the new AD at the start of the new year. Mind you, he actually spent time in Edinburg, but I doubt that this sounds like a guy ready to cut football.
I can’t seem to find information on whether Portland State’s stadium rental contract expired at the end of December or in place through 2015. All I’m able to find is that the University of Oregon website offers two easy clicks to get to 2015 season ticket information, while the only easy indication of Portland State’s continued football existence on the ticket sales page is to sign up for “tailgating space” for next season, something currently available in the limited parking lot on 20th across from the stadium. That could easily be moved to Hillsboro, or even easily dropped. If PSU is fighting for a 2015 contract in town, the Montana schools’ games are obvious motivation. If the contract is in place, seeing an actual count for both of the marquee games would be a prime indication of whether PSU football might be better off in Hillsboro.
Enough about PSU.
The news that stressed out many a Timbers Army regular last month was from Taylor Twellman indicating that the Sounders are frustrated with turf issues and may seek to build their own stadium. The stress comes from the probability that the Sounders can easily make more money in their own place. How can Portland, with a relatively poor owner and a smaller facility, compete with that?
Don’t panic, it’s Seattle. The law on the books in the city doesn’t allow public funds to be used on a stadium without a substantial public return on investment, and placing the team in the suburbs would be fan base suicide. So it won’t happen there easily. Note how a private interest seeking to build a Seattle arena has already spent two years tiling with both NBA interference and local bureaucracy. If it happens at all, it will probably take a decade to complete, and don’t forget that the Clink is state-funded, so there will be opposition to the project (think about how long MetroStars and DC United fought for a new stadium).
Now, what could the Timbers do? Not much, but I think there’s a couple possible enhancements requiring plenty of money and a little ingenuity (in other words, don’t hold your breath). Or one can goad the city into a go-for-broke option.
I remember when Goose Hollow requested limitations on the east side construction plan, trying to preserve the openness looking into (and maybe out of) the park. Did that really happen as planned? Can some more seats be built under that roof now?
Obviously, the south end can have seats added. There’s a trick, though. The party platform probably makes more money per square foot than if it were replaced with seats. Question: can a seating deck be built above it, without getting in the way of- or otherwise peeving- the MAC? Or maybe it’s time to have the city buy that strip of property the MAC owns between the building and the field. NOTE: I generally laugh at the people who suggest Merritt Paulson buy the MAC completely. He’s not that rich, therefore the MAC buys him.
There were early renditions of Wrigley Field renovation involving a sky bridge between the stadium and a new multi-use building the Cubs plan to build near the stadium. As I think about that parking lot on 20th, I can’t help but think that building a larger parking structure there and bridging between it and the stadium is one way to expand the concourse… and maybe even justify a small second deck on the west side, possibly by removing the roof (along with the damn columns) and building a bit higher before placing a roof more similar to the east side unit. Mind you, traffic justifications for a garage there are really flimsy, or do you have a novel means of turning left from Burnside? Also, that’s where the real money gets spent.
I actually think all that would need to be done BEFORE terracing the North End. Of course, my suspicion is that someone at the city is aware of the Taylor Report and removing those seats probably scares them to the point where their eyeballs fall out.
There’s another novel idea, however. See that plot of land at Portland International Raceway? You know, the one with no more major races, a dedicated MAX stop, and NOT Portland Parks property in the way Delta Park is? Remember what I said about the Oakland Raiders, except that Oakland may actually opt for baseball? How about a 50,000-seat stadium, TWO moving trays for fields (one turf for the Raiders, one grass for the Timbers), and not even worry about land development beyond that? Then let Portland State try to figure out Providence Park. It’s probably a billion dollar thought, but a thought in any event.