Don Garber, commissioner of Major League Soccer, wrote [PDF] yesterday to City Commissioner Dan Saltzman
to say it would not be possible
to have the Portland Timbers soccer team and the Portland Beavers baseball team both continue to play at PGE Park.
The entire letter above is worth reading. But here's the most interesting part of Garber's argument for why PGE Park must be renovated to accommodate soccer-specific seating [emphasis mine]:
Sideline seats generate the most revenue for, and provide a critical contribution to the financial performance of, each MLS team. Without these seats, the Timbers will struggle to achieve financial viability in MLS. Moreover, in order to maximize the value of the seats, it is vital that the grandstand includes the requisite supporting infrastructure including permanent restrooms and concession stands.
Having fans on both sides of the field creates the type of exciting, intimate atmosphere that is a hallmark of successful MLS teams. I cannot overstate the importance of this type of in-stadium experience. It not only leads to greater fan interest and attendance, but as significantly, a passionate atmosphere drives the overall perception of the team in the media and on television. This last point is particularly important. Because television cameras shoot west to east, there would be no fans in the majority of the television shots broadcast from PGE Park if the east side grandstand is not built. The lack of fans in broadcast view will lead to the perception that the team has little support in the community.
Saltzman, of course, is the swing vote on City Council. He tipped the balance in favor of bringing Major League Soccer to Portland on March 11, when the council voted 3-2 to move forward on a public-private deal (then priced at $88.8 million) with Merritt Paulson. The city still needs to formalize the deal with a second vote.
If Saltzman doesn't find Garber's argument convincing, there could be trouble for Paulson.