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Portland unveils stadium plan
by Ridge Mahoney, December 23rd, 2009 7AM

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During meetings in the days leading up to MLS Cup last month, the league's Board of Governors heard a presentation, described by one of them as "very impressive," regarding renovations of PGE Park, where an expansion team is scheduled to begin playing in 2011.

The details of that renovation have been posted on the team's MLS Web site. A facility that will seat 20,000 with an additional 4,000 seats available if needed is scheduled to be ready in time for the start of the 2011 season. Estimated cost of the retrofit is $31 million, and yet to be decided is where the current primary tenant, the minor-league baseball Beavers, will play once the MLS team takes over PG&E Park.

All four sides of the stadium will enclose the field, with addition of seats and a club level to fill in the mostly vacant east side. On that same side is a public plaza near a light-rail stop that will serve as the main entrance, with a club shop to be built for sales of team merchandise. A roof will extend over most of the seats in the east section.

The facility will also feature seats at field level, a restaurant, and group and family decks for parties and picnics, and a privately owned sports and rehabilitation clinic. Merritt Paulson, owner of the USL-1 Timbers and majority investor in the MLS franchise, said Monday the playing surface will most likely be FieldTurf to stand up under rainy weather and other uses of the field, including high school events and Portland State football.

Paulson is still looking for a site to build a baseball stadium for the Beavers, which is one of the contingencies of the city obtaining an MLS team. Suburban and downtown possibilities have been proposed but no solution has been found.

PGE Park, formerly known as Multnomah Stadium and Civic Stadium, has been renovated twice in its 83-year history, and the city is still paying off a $40 million facelift completed in 2001. A few MLS officials initially balked at the age and configuration of the facility and downgraded Portland's expansion prospects, but they liked its downtown location - a la Seattle and Toronto - as well as the prospects of a triangle rivalry between Portland, the Sounders and Vancouver, which will also join MLS in 2011.

Paulson's dogged pursuit of a suitable renovation plan and pledge to relocate the Beavers, which he also owns, swayed city officials to his side, and gained Board of Governors' confidence.

"The city council agreement was a tremendous achievement for Merritt Paulson," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber last March when acceptance of Portland's bid was officially announced. "There's a lot of consideration and flexibility in that deal which says a lot about his enthusiasm for getting something done with the city. Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard are both very committed to the Major League Soccer project."

Construction is scheduled to begin in January, will be suspended during the football and baseball seasons and resume in September.

Portland has apparently contacted a very viable candidate to be its head coach; Dynamo assistant coach John Spencer, who told the Houston Chronicle earlier this month he declined an invitation to interview for the vacant D.C. United position because he'd been approached by another club, which he did not name.



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