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Portland’s Merritt Paulson talks about real grass, adding terraces to Jeld-Wen Field

Sep 25, 2013, 8:07 PM EDT

Jeld-Wen 3

Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson is clearly always thinking about two of the elements that could further enhance the Timbers brand: a real grass field and just a little more capacity for a great ground that does fall on the “limited capacity” side.

Trouble is, both are tricky, and for completely different reasons.

Speaking on the Soccer Today radio show / podcast (disclosure, a show I host along with Marc Stein), Paulson told me plans are still being explored of adding a terrace to Jeld-Wen’s North End. That would add to the 22,000-seat capacity (always packed) by several thousand.

Paulson was quite cautious in his phrasing of possibly adding natural grass (rather than the artificial turf), understanding how badly some supporters would love to see this major change. He specifically said that he doesn’t want to mislead folks on this one, but did put the chances of grass at Jeld-Wen within the next few years at “50-50.”

Even considering that Portland’s brand of faux field is the best in MLS, and even understanding that chances of real grass bliss beneath the feet are no better than 50-50, that’s still something to sit up and take notice of.

Artificial lighting could answer some of the concerns; a sunken bowl means Portland would be faced with growth issues that have dogged a few grass fields in MLS and elsewhere in the world.

But he biggest impediment, he said, are the Portland State University football games, which take place right around the same time natural grass stops growing (in the fall, of course). Paulson pointed out that his artificial turf field plays more true than some MLS grass fields once fall arrives and big American football players, plus the seasonal growth cycles, begin exacting a toll.

“Something will have to change” he said before the Portland Timbers could consider the other issue of a grass field: the shared arrangement with PSU.

Paulson had plenty to say in the wide-ranging interview, including thoughts on MLS expansion, on scheduling – and a guarded look back at the Clint Dempsey situation.

  1. hildezero - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    Is the north end of Jeld-Wen Field the part where it has the jumbo screen and the building behind it? Because I don’t know.

    • The Doktor - Sep 26, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      That’s the South end. The North end is where the Timbers Army is.

  2. The Doktor - Sep 26, 2013 at 12:27 PM


    Why didn’t you ask about PSU football being removed from the facility? Their lease is up next year. There is also the issue of PSU’s football program funding. Do they have it? Does Merritt anticipate the program continuing? Happily accepting that Merritt says something needs to change and not asking him if that is happening is sort of bad journalism.

    • danielofthedale - Sep 26, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      Well doing a little research shows that that the Timbers do not own the stadium but the City of Portland. I find it highly unlikely that the City would include the Timbers in a lease negotiation with a public college and that the City will most likely do everything they can to keep PSU football in the stadium. So most even if did ask he would have like gotten a non statement about it and I would guess he did ask and since Merritt has not really information on it decided to not put it in the article.

      • pdxwilly - Sep 26, 2013 at 9:20 PM

        Couple of thoughts.

        1) It’s not a city university, it’s a State university. The University acts as a separate entity, and must follow negotiations just like the Timbers do in respects to stadium usage.

        2) Asking a simple “Can you speak to the status of a long term home for the Vikings” is not a bad idea.

        3) Solid journalism would have prompted him to ask, and then post said non-statement. Show’s he asked, and shows it’s on the owner’s mind.

      • danielofthedale - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:28 AM

        Thank you pdxwilly for telling me the “S” in PSU stood for State and not City.

        And no one has shown me any reason why Merritt Paulson would know anything about what is going on between the City of Portland and PSU in terms of a negotiation.

        Then there is the fact that you can’t prove he did not ask, got a no commit or perhaps Merritt said next question, or said hey how about Manchester Derby. Any of those response prove less than worthy to put in an article.

      • The Doktor - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:24 PM

        Dearest Noob,

        I’m very well aware the city owns the stadium. I’m also incredibly aware that while the city owns the stadium the Timbers are under contract to actually run the stadium. Do you know what that means? It means that as the primary tenant they negotiate the leases and anything that goes on at the stadium. Want to have a concert there? Cool, talk to the Timbers FO. Want to have a rugby exhibition? Cool, talk to the Timbers FO. Want to play some football there? Cool, talk to the Timbers FO. See how this works? The city doesn’t get to negotiate. That’s in the Timbers lease as primary tenant.

        From my understanding PSU’s football program was in danger of being cancelled due to lack of extension of funds from the state legislature. Did the state legislature extend the funds to continue PSU’s money losing football program? Cause to be frank talking about grass is a non-starter unless PSU and the high school football teams that play there are out of that stadium. It’s not even worth mentioning.

        Looking forward to your next attempt at lecturing me how things work, dan of the dale.

    • danielofthedale - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      Thanks Dok, I was clearly misinformed and deserved the lashing. The article search I did produced items that simply stated the City owned the stadium and listed tenants. Never did I see the Timbers giving the day to today operations or the ability to discuss terms with other current or possible future tenants. I appreciate you correcting me on this.

  3. hildezero - Sep 26, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    @The Doktor,

    Oh, okay. Thanks for the info, dawg.

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