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.