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Monday, August 31, 2009

More reasons for Portland not to do the Paulson stadium deal

One of the more persistent opponents of the Paulson soccer stadium deal, Peter Apanel, continues to hammer away at reasons why PGE Park isn't where the Portland Timbers should play once they're promoted to the "major" league (by U.S. standards). He continues to write e-mail messages and letters to anyone who will listen, arguing that a new soccer-only stadium (presumably, leaving the Portland Beavers baseball team where it is) is a superior solution.

The guy is an energetic researcher, and he's been trying in vain to get someone to produce for him the "standards" that the "major" soccer league says it is implementing by demanding that the Timbers' stadium be soccer-only. So far, no one has been able to show him any document that contains any such "standards," and it appears that no one in Portland city government has ever seen such a document. Indeed, it may be that no such document exists. Apanel has not been shy in suggesting that the league is making things up as it goes along, the better to enable the team's owner, Little Lord Paulson, to hold the city up for a more lucrative deal.

In the meantime, however, Apanel has turned up some very specific regulations adopted by FIFA, the international soccer organization. And he says it's quite clear that the current plan to redo PGE for the "major" league will never bring the facility into compliance with FIFA standards -- or even bring it close to complying.

For one thing, there will never be enough restrooms. PGE can barely get by for baseball and American football, but with soccer there's only one 15-minute break and no timeouts, and so lavatory demand is much more concentrated. To meet FIFA standards, Apanel says, PGE would need 350 toilets or urinals, and he says that many can't be squeezed into the park. In contrast, he notes, "the new major league baseball stadium in Milwaukee, which seats 42,000, has 316 toilets/urinals for men, 300 toilets for women, 74 single-user restrooms, and eight family-style restrooms. The men's restroom total matches FIFA's formula exactly, and the other numbers add up favorably."

Then there are the seat dimensions. The existing seats at PGE don't comply with FIFA recommendations because some of them are bench seats (an automatic dinger) and the rest have risers that aren't deep enough, providing inadequate leg room. And the proposed new seats would have the same riser problem, Apanel says. FIFA wants 33½ inches of riser; PGE currently gives only 30, and that's the plan for the new seats as well.

Additionally, he questions whether there can ever be enough concession stands in the building to serve the added capacity (and extra concentration of demand) that the proposed renovation would bring about. FIFA calls for one permanent (cash register) point of sale for every 200 fans, with about four feet of counter space per station; for a 20,000-seat stadium, that would be 400 feet of counter space. That's more than the entire length of the field. Can PGE handle it? Apanel doesn't think so. He adds:

And there's still another problem. The proposed plan calls for a standing room only viewing area in the north end of the stadium for the Timbers Army. But FIFA strongly recommends against any such viewing areas because of the potential for a "highly dangerous forward surge of spectators."
Now, it's not at all clear how much ice all this truth is going to cut. But the apparent absence of any real "standards" does shed further light on the vague and misleading nature of a lot of the sales pitch that the team and the city have been feeding the taxpaying public on this deal. And the fact that PGE can't come up to FIFA standards no matter what is done to it, does lead one to question why a new baseball stadium, rather than a new soccer stadium, is being planned.

Apanel may not get the PGE soccer deal killed, but he's certainly providing fuel for a strong case in the court of public opinion.

Comments (18)

I was just telling an out of town friend how crooked the entire city government is this morning over breakfast!
Bad for the digestion! and my blood pressure!!!

If anyone thought PGE could ever host a FIFA match they are sorely mistaken. FIFA is the international governing body, which is unrelated to this debate. I don't believe this adds much fuel to the fire.

Just to clarify because this has been rehashed somewhere else on the internet (I think on Mercury's Blogtown), the FIFA recommendations are for siting World Cup Finals games and not for league games or even World Cup Qualifiers. Further, they are "recommendations" and not regulatory requirements. Otherwise, why would FIFA have allowed the Women's World Cup games to be held here a few years ago?

There are many good reasons, mostly fiscal, to not plow our tax money into making it a "soccer only" stadium (which is also a bit of a red herring since American football would also be played there, i.e., Portland State Vikings Football). But this FIFA "regulations" argument has to be one of the flimsiest arguments.

Most of what Mr. Apanel provides is further fuel for the case that American literacy levels are rapidly declining.

Those FIFA stipulations are for venues hosting the World Cup Finals, and have nothing to do with domestic league stadia. FIFA doesn't even apply the standards given here to venues hosting World Cup qualifying matches.

Hey, I'd love to change City Council's minds, but they want this thing and will find any exuse to make it happen. It does get depressing when you see the city you grew up in and like start to get manipulated by people like Paulson.

Just waiting for the illiterate Timber's Army member to start hurling pejoratives at any time now.

I hope Bojack will post a link to the complete letter that I sent last week to the city council, along with the attachments, because the evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable.

This is a slam dunk case.

If the city council caves in to all the wishful thinking on the part of those who support the current PGE Park renovation plan, and ignores realistic standards for restrooms, seating, and food stands, PGE Park, as an MLS venue, will be an immediate and irreversible disaster, and Portland will be the laughingstock of the country.

Nicely done Peter! There is no substitute for knowing the facts.

I don't suppose it would do any good to cc anyone in broadcast media? i.e. Dan Tilkin or one of the other "watchdog" types who are trying to make a name for themselves....

I could be wrong, but hasn't PGE Park already hosted FIFA matches?

I believe the Men's national team played several official World Cup qualifying matches there, and the Women's World Cup also had several matches there.

How could this have been possible if PGE Park doesn't meet regulations? Peter, do you know if the park used to meet regulations but has since changed? (maybe from the last rennovations?) It seems odd that a park that doesn't meet "regulations" would be officially sanctioned by FIFA to host World Cup matches (even if it was the Womens World Cup)

Something interesting happened to me in this debate.
I thought I had established that I am a genuine soccer fan, having watched the British stuff overseas as a kid. I went through my list: Seeing Pele, etc...meeting Manchester United...getting up early to watch an occasional big match or later for the replays. I probably watched 20 soccer matches on TV last year.
After all that, I was accused of being a soccer hater because I'm against this deal and want to keep PGE Park a dual use stadium.
So the mighty Timber Army now equates what they think should happen, with the fate of soccer itself. They are now the banner-carrying representatives of all that is beautiful with the beautiful game. Hilarious.

Now comes the change: The other day, I was on 401 watching a match of real major leaguers abroad, and it hit me: I'm not enjoying this. Paulson, Sam, Randy, and the rest of these visionaries and this whole stupid, phony, debate have actually impacted my enjoyment of the game.
Oh, I'll be ready for the World Cup but these Timber advocates have actually hurt soccer by association. They are now causing the real soccer channel to lose viewers - at least one - simply by reminding true soccer fans of them.

No problem. American football to the rescue. The NFL Channel has games 24/7 unless there's a live broadcast of a game on another channel. I can go upstairs from my office and watch it on 729 on our high def TV.
The Ducks open on a Thursday night on ESPN.
And nobody will be wearing scarves. See ya.

I think the idea of bringing MLS to Portland is really dumb. I am also familiar with FIFA and all the rules/regs this guy is spouting have NOTHING to do with any soccer other then the actual World Cup. Even then they are bent all the time (just wait until next years world cup in SA). I give him credit for trying but he is barking up the wrong tree with his FIFA argument, and is probably hurting the cause against redoing PGE Park.

The big question that Apanel is asking is "where are the MLS documents, standards that says PGE Park can only be soccer configurated?" Why won't Randy and Sam provide that documentation?

They can't.

While I am glad to see evidence that PGE doesn't meet FIFA standards, There is a technical error in the Mr. Apanel's comments. He calls out a requirement for 33 1/2" risers. The 33 1/2" obviously refers to the run (span) of each row not the rise of the row. This means that there is a full 33 1/2" from the back of one chair to the back of the one above or below. The current 30" is a bit tight for leg room but not uncommon, especially in older facilities. With concrete tiers this cannot be changed short of demolishing the entire facility and rebuilding from scratch. How about we propose to Mr. Paulson that he demo PGE Park and re-construct the facillity on his own dime?

What FIFA is recommending against are the terraces that most stadiums in Europe contained until the mid 1980s when too many people were let into a section and the people in the front were crushed against a fence. The resulting investigation found no issues with the terraces itself but rather with the police who had let too many people into the section. You can read about it here.

Most stadiums in Germany actually still have the terraces. They have been modified so that these rushes forward don't happen.

Another note is that these are just recommendations as others have pointed out and would not stop a FIFA sanctioned event from happening in Portland.

It seems that Vancouver, BC wants to be an MLS contender and that:

"All of the upgrades are to be completed by the time the Vancouver Whitecaps are ready to move into BC Place for the 2011 season," said BC Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Bill Bennett. "With the open air experience the new roof will create, and the draping that will condense the stadium to a smaller venue more conducive to soccer, we are confident BC Place will not only meet MLS stadium standards, but exceed most stadiums in terms of the fan experience.""

And that

"The 14-team MLS is set to add Seattle in 2009 and Philadelphia in 2010. An announcement regarding which markets will receive the next two expansion clubs is expected to take place by the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2009. The league office and the MLS expansion committee are currently reviewing the Whitecaps MLS expansion application, along with six other applications from markets in the United States and Canada."

Even if Little Lord P and the Fire Dweeb Randle manage to shove this deal down the tax payers throats, there is no guarantee PDX will actually be an MLS venue.

"are just recommendations as others have pointed out and would not stop a FIFA sanctioned event"

So we're going to lay out this money for Paulson and we won't even get a FIFA-acceptable soccer stadium that is dedicated to soccer? This is after Big Daddy Garber insisted we needed to make the stadium soccer-centric for soccer only? God, we are a bunch of idiots.

I guess I should be grateful Garrett isn't calling everyone who disagrees with him some nasty name mimicked from English soccer fans.

The great irony is that the person who stands to gain the most by listening to what I have to say is Merritt Paulson, because it's obvious that he has been grossly ill-advised about stadium design. And if he's smart he'll get a copy of the letters that I've sent to the city council with all the details regarding stadium standards, and get a second opinion from an architect outside of his inner circle.

I'm sure glad Paulson didn't go to Boston with his "ideas" and try to tear down Fenway Park that on paper has more deficiencies than PGE Park. Forget the 100 year history and ambiance of either. You can always buy a politician, planner or architect that can give you the answer you want.


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