Timbers debut gets the money flowing

Timbers debut gets the money flowing



Dylan Bird owns The Bitter End Pub, unofficial home of the Timbers Army, whose ranks have swelled as PGE Park across the street from his pub has added seats and season tickets. // PHOTO BY MATTHEW GINN

The woman with the crosscut saw across her shoulders stares down at the city. A green circle logo with a double-headed axe is in the corner to the left, with “Spring 2011” nearby. The billboard is massive. You can see it in her eyes and the eyes of every other member of the Timbers Army who is ready for the 2011 Major League Soccer season: There’s no pity in the Rose City. And when the Portland Timbers home games begin on April 14, local businesses are hoping to see green — and not just in the grass on the pitch.

Timbers owner Merritt Paulson expects the completely remodeled PGE Park, now named Jeld-Wen Field, to bring $30 million to local businesses and create 300 long-term jobs. It’s a promise he’s willing to back up — he was the owner of the Timbers as a minor-league team, and it cost $36 million (with the city putting in $12 million) to upgrade to owning a Major League Soccer franchise.

The Timbers’ front office estimates that stadium revenues alone will bring in around $14 million each year from the 2011 inaugural season through 2015; the average MLS team’s revenue is $13.83 million. All but three MLS teams increased their season ticket sales from 2007 to 2008 (the data used by the reporting firm, HVS Convention and Sports Entertainment), and the league average is a 26.6% increase. The Timbers surpassed 12,000 inaugural season tickets sold on March 7, and made 500 additional season tickets available. MLS takes a third of the base ticket revenues, but the new Jeld-Wen Field is expected to bring in $3 per person in merchandise and $8 per person in concessions — or about one large Widmer Brothers’ Hefeweizen with a lemon.

Paulson also owns the mostly defunct Portland Beavers, which ranked last in AAA baseball attendance for their final season in 2010. All signs point to Paulson selling the franchise in the near future, as they are currently without a place to play. As Dylan Bird of the Bitter End Pub across from the stadium says, “Losing the baseball games would have sucked if people went to games in the last few years.”