New stands at PGE Park will be uncomfortable
Reader Peter Apanel, a fierce critic of the plan to remodel PGE Park as a soccer-only facility -- unsuitable for baseball -- writes in with his reactions to the stadium renovation plans that we blogged about last week:
They plan on having 5,000 seats in the bleacher section in the east end of the stadium, but there's a problem when you crunch the numbers. The crunch is that they plan on having seats that are 19 inches wide, on risers that are 30 inches deep. If you take out a ruler and measure the chair you're sitting in at this moment, it's obvious that those proposed seating dimensions for PGE Park are going to be incredibly uncomfortable.Another reader echoes this last thought:
The other major item that is highly questionable and highly expensive is the $2.1 million to construct a roof over that east end bleacher section. Since there are only going to be approximately 20 home matches per season, and most of those matches will take place during the driest months of the year, the probability that there will actually be any rainfall during the 2-hour duration of a match is minuscule. And when you consider the fact that European soccer leagues play during the winter months, how can Portlanders complain if they should happen to get a little wet?
Another troublesome item is the plan to essentially block off the free viewing opportunities from the sidewalk along NW 18th Avenue. That's a great tradition, and a great feature of PGE Park that will be lost if the current plan goes through.
Before [the most recent] city council meeting I went up to PGE Park to take another look at the general layout, with Paulson's plans in mind. And the argument that the existing concourses within the stadium need to be widened by demolishing the existing concession stands makes no sense at all. The obvious solution to creating more space is to simply move the entry/exit gates and fences outward, into the two plazas outside the stadium.
And here's some number-crunching on their restroom plans. For the existing restrooms that serve the existing grandstand seats, they plan on adding two urinals per restroom. Currently, there are 31 restrooms at PGE Park, so presumably 15 of those are men's restrooms. So, that means they will add 30 urinals. Now, with halftimes being only 15 minutes long, one urinal can serve, at best, let's say, 25 men during that period of time. So, those extra 30 urinals will be able to serve only 750 men. Now, considering the fact that the vast majority of fans are men, those 30 extra urinals aren't going to make up for the current shortage of restrooms that forced Paulson to cordon off 3,000 seats for the match against Seattle last week.
By the way, [one day last week] I noticed that in the upper section of the grandstands, the upper two-thirds of the rows are covered with tarps. That's over 6,000 seats. Now, is Paulson's plan to artificially limit attendance at [this] week's [minor league baseball] All-Star Game? Here's the one game he could probably sell out at full capacity, so what's he up to? If he makes the same excuse he made for the Seattle match, that there aren't enough concession stands to accommodate a full house, then why doesn't he simply bring in stand-alone vendor carts and put them out along the left field, street-level concourse, as well as the two field-level beer gardens, to pick up the slack, and make it possible for fans to continue watching the game while they're waiting in line?
Besides all of the other issues, I think Paulson simply doesn't know how to run a sports franchise.
What makes anyone think that Merritt Paulson has got the showmanship and promotional chops, out front enthusiasm, or plain old baseball (or soccer) fever to make any team he owns a success? If he couldn't make a renovated stadium and its events attractive to ordinary Portlanders, what makes anyone think he can make a go of any sports team in a bigger, more expensive venue?
My wife and I lived in Tucson in the 80s and early 90s before we moved to Portland. In Tucson we attended quite a few AAA baseball Toros games, as did it seemed about half the town. The stands were packed every home game with couples, families with lots of kids, as well as the pro sports crowd. It was fun, it was accessible (locationally), and it was relatively inexpensive- - and the management promoted the hell out of it. The place rocked on game night (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tucson_Toros).
When we moved to Portland, we first lived in the Portland Towers up above Civic Stadium and one of the attractions there was the ability to just walk over and see a ball game. It was so disappointing to see the lackluster promotion and management of the baseball games. We watched a few games, returned with hope after the first renovation, but nothing has really improved and we've never been back except for a special school-related event. Now we live in Sellwood and walk over to Westmoreland Park with the kids for our summer baseball (well, softball mostly) viewing. It doesn't even cross our minds to go downtown -- even if we knew when the games were.
But then the game for Merritt isn't baseball or soccer, it's "finance."