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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 26, 2011 8:43 AM. The previous post in this blog was Blazer heaven. The next post in this blog is Live long and prosper. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Suck it in, Timbers fans -- your seats are 18 inches wide

Of all the critics of the pointless re-renovation of Jelled-When Field (formerly PGE Park) by the City of Portland for Little Lord Paulson, none are more strident than a guy named Peter Apanel. As he's consistently pointed out, all the millions being poured into the place aren't going to prevent it from being a darned uncomfortable place to watch sports -- particularly when it's sold out, as it will be for a lot of at least its first season of operation as a "major league" (by U.S. standards) soccer venue.

Apanel sent us a pretty revealing photo the other day, with an informative caption:

I've been waiting to see what they would do with the bench-style seats, and at this late date it's now pretty clear that they aren't going to widen the spacing.

The individual seats in the lower section measure 21" wide from the center of one armrest to the other, which is equal to the minimum width required in the MLS Venue Design Guide. And that requirement is based on data showing that the median adult measures 21" wide at the shoulders.

On the other hand, the bench-style seats allocate just 18" per seat location. So, for every seven tickets sold, only six adults, on average, will actually fit in any given row.

What's interesting about the photo is that it clearly illustrates that six individual seats take up the same width as seven bench-style seats.

Of course, none of this was a problem in the past because those bench-style seats were general admission, so everyone could spread out. But now most of those seats have already been sold as season tickets.

So, with 10,000-plus bench-style seats, up to 1,400 people with tickets won't have a place to sit.

He's got a point, of course. By our count there are 22 seats in each of the rows below, but 26 "seats" in the upper, bench rows. Pretty cozy -- the bench slots are 15.4% narrower than the seats with armrests.

Eighteen inches is the same width as a coach seat on a Boeing 757 aircraft.

But hey, let's hope for the best, Peter. Maybe the plebeians in the cheaper sections will all be skinny people. They'll be $10.50 lighter -- or maybe $60 lighter -- if they parked on the street.

Comments (20)

The extra three inches in the bowl seats don't help much either, unless they have removed the cup holders. I have to sit spread-eagled to fit, and hope those next to me are petite and friendly. The bench seats are sized for grade-schoolers. Wear your skinny jeans.

This is why I always bought general admission at Beavers games, and another reason why, if I do watch the Timbers, it will be on TV.

Please understand that most of the Timber Fans will be riding their bikes or skateboards to the games and most of those folks are skinny and often stoned. Don't see a problem here.

No problem...Leonard will be in some suite sipping Cristal laughing at the little people below who don't have a seat.

A couple of thousand people per game are not going to be able to find parking at any price so the stands won't be as full as the ticket sales would suggest.

How do you suck in your shoulders?

{Shrug}

It's soccer, the more uncomforatble and 3rd-worldly, the more the fans think it's like Europe.

Remember, we do want to be like Europe.

Yep, if the Beavers would have stayed in town there would have been 10 empty seats for every person with a ticket. That would have been great for taking a nap during the stupefyingly dull minor league baseball games. Unfortunately, when you'd wake up it was still the 2nd inning and you had 4 more hours to go. PS the season tickets in GA are still GA - the seats are not assigned by number, so it won't be any more crowded than at the sellout games in the past - notably vs. the Sounders. Though packed, those games have been some of the most fun I've ever had watching sports. No, you don't get your own recliner and you don't get to park in your own 3 garage at the game. Sorry! Eventually Portland will dry up and blow away and we won't have to worry about any of this high falutin' big city "things to do" and "places to have fun" nonsense. For now I'll enjoy some soccer.

PS the season tickets in GA are still GA - the seats are not assigned by number, so it won't be any more crowded than at the sellout games in the past - notably vs. the Sounders.

Season ticket holders are not the same as single-game ticket holders. When there's no place left to sit, they're going to be unhappy. But hey, they gave money to Merritt Paulson -- that's what happens.

The more pain and, the more real it will feel. Come on, get into the Euro-spirit people!

In sitting in the "new" seats from the last renovation of Civic Stadium it seems like those are really tight as well - particularly with legroom if you're even borderline tall. I run into this at Qwest Field as well where nosebleed seats are $70. Same thing in Husky stadium in the reserved bleachers. In GA at Civic Stadium my experience is it pays to get there as early as you realistically can on game day and get yourself positioned for the game. I don't deny at all that it's tight quarters and the economics of cramming more people in there are obvious. At the same time, the noise of the crowd and the energy of the extra people is going to be a huge benefit for the team and will make the game day experience that much more fun. I'm just not sure that this is so much Merritt Paulson profiteering (which he clearly is in spades) vs. an outmoded stadium that is really too small for the crowds MLS are generating. MLS games in Seattle routinely draw over 30k and up to 60k + for the "friendlies" with the European clubs like Chelsea FC. And that's with MLB competition right next door, sometimes on the same day competing for the same audience. Personally I think in spite of the crowded seating this is going to be one of those very rare combos where a public/private partnership in Portland actually works. In my perfect world arrangements like this wouldn't happen and if somebody wanted to make cash on a sports team they'd do it with all their own $ and collect the proceeds accordingly. But it still seems like a net win to Portland in a town where the number of businesses wanting to come in and grow is small to zero. As an aside, in my above mentioned perfect world everyone involved in engineering and executing the banking bailouts of '08 would be put in a capsule and shot into outer space so I'd guess we're on the same page there :)

And thanks to a recent opinion of the Federal Transit Administration which designates the average weight of a bus rider at 175 pounds up from 150 pounds, this means that those fatter people will also have a harder time getting to and from Jeld-Wen Field as there's no parking.

No worries, a Streetcar can hold more passengers than a bus - but only if they're standing, because a Streetcar actually has fewer seats that a standard 40' TriMet bus (even though the Streetcar is longer than the bus). We'll just have to hope that TriMet has plenty of MAX trains stacked up when the game gets over.

Oh, wait, TriMet doesn't do that for Blazers games. Crap.

this is going to be one of those very rare combos where a public/private partnership in Portland actually works.

Define "works." Having this pencil out as profitable for the city is a mathematical impossibility. And that's before the sewer line gives way.

Oh Clint. I had the rare misfortune to attend a Timbers game long ago. The person who invited me told me it was a baseball game (I'd have been busy for a soccer game). There were a lot of little kids around us and the 20 somethings nearby were using language that would make a Marine blush to yell insults at the opposing team. That will be the one and only soccer game I ever attend. And I am not happy that I have to subsidize Paulsen and those who want to watch games. Why can't you all pay for it yourselves? None of it will ever benefit me in the least.

Good point Jack on penciling out $ wise for the city as far as the stadium deal goes. I am thinking more in terms of benefits to businesses around the stadium and between the stadium and parking garages downtown as people stop for pre/post game dinner and drinks - and the added tax revenue to the city from that business. The parking revenue from the price increases everyone is upset about is also in that pot. But the pipe with the creek in it is still old and the underlying infrastructure of the stadium still presents a risk that the city is presumably on the hook for - no argument there. I get that the Timbers Army is an annoyance to a lot of people, but there is also a benefit to 12,500 people patronizing neighborhood restaurants and bars on a regular basis and the taxes that business generates. Not everyone's cup of tea for sure and I'd be the last person to argue that GA at a Timbers game is a great, family oriented area to sit. I guess to me in the scope of Portland "deals" this seems the best of the lot. It isn't a tram for 8 doctors to ride, it isn't empty condo towers, it isn't an immigration prison next to those empty towers, it isn't a streetcar network with no fare inspectors or security that travels more slowly than an elderly person's walking pace and it isn't Tom Moyer's Empty Hole Next To Nordstrom or the imaginary headquarters hotel next to the Convention Center. I guess by "works" I mean "the best of a bad lot".

Here are some more interesting facts.

Before renovation, PGE Park's official seating capacity for soccer was 19,566.

The new grandstand seating in the east and south ends of the stadium adds 3,780 seats. But somehow, the capacity of Jeld-Wen Field will end up being just 20,000, for a net gain of only 434 seats. So, what happened to 3,000-plus seats?

Meanwhile, the 200-plus new grandstand seats in the south end could have been added without changing the field into a soccer-only configuration.

So, that means the actual net gain is just over 200 seats.

So, why weren't these details, along with the many other negative details about this deal, made public so they could have been properly scrutinized before the project was approved? These are, after all, things that can be easily measured and counted, using grade-school arithmetic.

By the way, there was a sold-out international soccer match at Fenway Park last summer, and it was a resounding success, even without seating in front of the Green Monster. And it's my understanding that they're going to continue playing baseball there.

Let me correct the person who wrote that season tickets in the bench-style seating area are general admission. They're not, except for the Timbers Army section.

A few weeks ago, KGW aired a story about season ticket holders in the bench-style seating area complaining about obstructed views. How can their seats be obstructed if they're general admission, and the ticket holder can simply move to some other location?

Also, the team's website states that single-game tickets for seats with obstructed views will only be sold at the stadium box office.

The underlying problem is that the spacing for those seats could have easily been widened so they at least provide the minimum width required. But that hasn't been done.

Meanwhile, the other problems involving substandard leg room, restroom facilities, concession stands, and concourse space can't be fixed, due to space and design limitations. So, it's going to be the Portland Timbers vs. The Laws Of Physics at Jeld-Wen Field.

Peter, you make good points. If the net gain is just "over 200 seats" from the previous baseball/soccer/football configuration, do you know how many this net gain is attributed to making the seats thinner?

It seems like Paulson has actually decreased the real fan capacity spending an additional $31 Million on top of the previous remaining $28 Million owed for the previous remodel. Paying $155,000 thousand for each of the new 200 seats seems expensive in my world.

Peter, thanks for the correction on the Timbers Army GA seats...noted that only applies to 8 sections, not all of GA. For total seating, the wikipedia entry for Jeld-Wen field lists 22k. In the past at Timbers games they've had the top section in GA tarped off and if more people come in and want to spread out they literally push the tarp up themselves. Hopefully that sort of DIY activity goes away now that we're in the MLS. That may be the difference between 20k and 22k? My guess is the 20k number just hasn't been updated for the remodel. It's obvious just looking at the stadium that there are a few thousand more seats unless the bench seats were made wider, negating the capacity of the new seats (which clearly isn't the case either). As you've said, it wouldn't seem to be a lot of work to have somebody at the PDC put out a one page fact sheet on all of this. To me the big miss of the whole thing was not putting up a minor league stadium where Memorial Coliseum stands while working with the Blazers to accommodate the Winterhawks in the RG. But that wouldn't have left the property for Vulcan to build whatever it is they've been promising there since the early 90's. Hopefully someone will bring baseball back to town in the next year or two and maybe this will be a chance for much ballyhooed all private investment to build a small stadium. Most would admit the Timbers marketing blitz has been nothing short of a full saturation bombing and it has been hugely successful. If that kind of attention was given to baseball maybe it'll make it on this next iteration. Say what you will about Timbers fans, they are at the games. Always. The same cannot be said for Beavers fans - present company excluded as I know baseball support runs strong and deep on the Bog Blog. Hopefully we only miss a season or two at most without baseball returning and it gets much stronger support next time around.

The City paid to upgrade it's own facility. Just saying.

"Most" of the GA have *not* been sold as season tickets, with 12.5K season tickets sold total there are probably 4-5K of GA season tix and that includes thousands of Army members in their own section.

The width of the bench seats is comparable to MLB stadiums all over the country.

Aisles were expanded hence the reason for any loss of seating capacity. But as far as I know there is no official announced capacity on the stadium yet. The renovation replaced the turf, scoreboards, renovated the pressbox, added TV facilities, added ribbon boards, etc etc. So don't get too excited about $/seat added figures.

Peter I have no idea what you are talking about re: obstructed views in GA I think I saw the same coverage as you did. But then again I don't understand most of what you say on this subject. It appears to be based on MLS and/or FIFA guidelines that are well understood in the industry to be "guidelines" not "regulations".

I can't wait for the outrage when phase 2 and 3 renovations are announced in the next few years. I wonder if having a wildly successful downtown stadium will dampen the critics?

My guess is probably not.


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