Timbers Stadium: mind the posts
The Portland Timbers soccer team home opener on Saturday will give fans a look at a rebuilding job. Not the post-Caleb Porter team (who finished best in the West last year but started cold this season with just two points in five games on the road), but the state of the renovation of the east stand.
In the off-season teams from Turner Construction poured a foundation for the new addition to the Key Bank stand. Designed by local architects Allied Works Architecture, it is officially known as the Providence Park Stadium Expansion.
Allied Works says "the 4,000-seat, four-level structure will provide dramatic accommodation for individuals and groups while maintaining an open public concourse and street-level arcade along 18th Avenue." The goal is to "creat[e] one of the true 'Cathedrals of Soccer' in all of North America."
The 39 posts
Construction will continue on a stop-start basis during the 2018 season, with fans at Timbers and Thorns games still able to use the Key Bank stand. They may walk between concrete pillars and enter through a hurricane fence, but a Turner Construction spokesman said they will have a thorough clean-up before every game. The east stand will not be open for T2 games, the Timbers second string, which draw smaller crowds than the Thorns and Portland Timbers.
Right now, in April 2018, anyone walking along the east side of the stand, by the Goose Hollow MAX station, will see 39 white concrete columns with rebar poking out of the top of them.
Under each column there are fifteen piles. The 200-plus piles that go 92 feet into the ground. Each pile is a steel rod two and a half inches in diameter. It has 12 inches of concrete cast around it. They carry the load into the earth and make sure the new stand will stay up in an earthquake. Where each pile meets the ground there is a concrete pile cap, which is 15 feet square and two to four feet deep.
The first part of the new roof will be attached at the level the columns are at now.
"We took this whole concourse down to the ground and up again in five months," Travis Harris, project superintendent with Turner Construction, told the Business Tribune with some pride.
It's not a complex operation. "At the end of the season we'll remove this big roof and put on a new big roof, and all the seating," said Harris.
Media were invited to see the progress last Thursday. Harris was keeping an eye on them to see that "nobody goes anywhere they shouldn't," as he put it. On-site safety is a huge part of any construction management company's job, and there is great potential for danger with 5,000 people pouring through the gates on game day.
Harris said the creek under the field was was a challenge but protecting the playing surface from damage by machinery was a bigger challenge. To build the tower crane they had to drive a smaller crane across the field.
Brian Sabom, project manager for Turner Construction, said the completion of the columns was the conclusion of phase one. Phase 2 will be completing the superstructure. He said the project is on schedule. They had good luck with the weather or laying down concrete, as well as with the subcontractors.
One of the biggest challenges will be stopping the work for games. "It's a challenge but we're working with it, and the city has been working with us on ways to maintain occupancy of the building in a safe manner so that patrons can get in," said Sabom.
"The biggest step is to not work around the crowd, and that is with a lot of planning, with consultants, the city and the Timbers."
MLS will take a one week break for the early part of the World Cup in Russia in July, which will allow a little more work to be done. It might have been more if the US men's team had qualified. (The Timbers will have two players away on World Cup duty.)
He added that fans would be able to watch the concrete structure go up over the 2018 season. "When the season ends, it's a rush to finish — taking off the existing canopy and building an enormous roof structure that cantilevers out 120 feet from the concrete structure and covers all the seats."
The amenities will include club seating and different views from three different levels.
Next level club
Sabom said in 2017 they planned to start work after the last game of the regular season but when the Timbers made the playoffs, they waited.
"We can't plan around things we don't know about, but we can have a set of baseline predictions. We haven't planned for the contingency yet, other than that we know the Timbers are a good team and there's a good chance they'll have a deep run in the playoffs."
Mike Golub, Portland Timbers and Thorns president of business, said he is excited for the season to get started, but that fans would only see a couple of changes. "The concourse will be closed and one entrance will be modified, but everything else will be open and all the seats will be open," said Golub. "We're going to make it very clear to fans what to expect, what to navigate."
The Timbers have sold out every home game in six seasons in MLS, and now there is a season ticket waiting list of 14,000 people.
Golub reminded the media that the $55 million (last year it was $50 million) renovation is privately funded, even though the team rents the stadium from the city of Portland through an operating agreement that runs through 2035. The "team" or club pays rent to the City plus a percentage of every ticket sale.
"Through the operating agreement we have the ability to realize revenue from the stadium," Golub said.
Fans will see the tower crane all season, they will see the levels of the new stand going in, and security fences will shift around as work progresses during the season.
The temporary fences may move around but security will not change. It will remain "robust," in Golub's words. His only advice to fans is to come early and leave enough to time deal with the changes.
"But for most fans on the west side of the stadium they won't see many changes," he added. In the future the big change will be game-day atmosphere, which is always greatest in the North End where the Timbers Army stands.
LAFC's new stadium in Los Angeles will hold 22,000 when it opens in June. With a new capacity of 25,000 Providence Park will be above the median MLS capacity, although Seattle and Atlanta, who play in NFL stadia, represent what's really possible in MLS attendance in terms of quantity if not quality.
"The essence of the design it to take the magic of the stadium and build on that and enhance the amazing atmosphere and bring more energy and more people," said Golub.
The site is constrained by the MAX lines along Southwest 18th Avenue. Unable to build back and deep, the architects envision building upwards, tearing off the old roof and replacing it with curves reminiscent of Boca Juniors' La Bombanera stand ("the chocolate box") in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The chocolate box is wooden and it bounces when the fans jump up and down.
Chelsea Grassinger, associate principal at Allied Works, said the project is going to plan. The "There are details we are having to refine, but not much that people would perceive. From a fan standpoint's going to look the way it does in the renderings."
Grassinger said such details were things like connectors and bolts things "so far into the weeds that a structural engineer would geek out about."
The fans won't be aware that a lot of work has gone on underground, on "back-of-house stuff," sucha as storage and electrical rooms.
Allied Works counts the project as one of the big ones it has been involved in, but certainly not the biggest. Currently they are working with Turner on the National Veteran's Memorial Museum in Columbus Ohio which opens this fall, and an embassy in Maputo in Mozambique.
Grassinger hopes it leads to more sports and arena work.
"It's a fascinating project because of the problem solving, such as the sight lines, and also design-wise we can make grand gestures in the structure. Also, there's the impact on the city: we're doing it in Portland for ourselves, and that is a real honor. We look at Providence Park as a civic space for the city, it has great history and has hosted so many great events."
2018 HOME OPENERS
Portland Timbers v Minnesota United
Saturday April 14, 7:30 p.m.
Portland Thorns v Orlando Pride,
Sunday April 15, 3 p.m.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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