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Outstanding in their fields

Timbers, park district celebrate unique partnership on practice and maintenance facility
by: Jaime Valdez, The Portland Timbers break in their new practice and training field at the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District's Fanno Creek Service Center on 112th Avenue.

Beaverton may be among Oregon's largest and fastest-growing cities, but its proximity to Portland makes it a challenge to attract certain big-city amenities, professional sports teams among them.

While residents must trek over the hill to take in professional soccer games at JELD-WEN Field, local fans can take heart the Portland Timbers - through a partnership with the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District - will do a good deal of their game preparations right in the heart of Beaverton.

Adjacent to the district's new Fanno Creek Service Center at 6220 S.W. 112th Ave., the brand-new adidas Timbers Training Center includes two adjacent, state-of-the-art soccer fields. The team will use the natural grass surface adjacent to Wonderland Park for practicing and training, while park district will manage the artificial-turf field immediately to the east for public recreational use.

The unique marriage between professional soccer and public park district will be consummated with a grand opening celebration at the joint facility on Wednesday, June 20, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The free event will feature tours of the new maintenance plant, a scrimmage by the Timbers U-23s, a youth soccer clinic; appearances by selected Timbers players and team mascot Timber Joey; and autograph opportunities, among other activities and fanfare.

Reaching the goal

In addition to the practice field, the $6 million investment also provides the Major League Soccer franchise with new locker rooms, indoor training and fitness areas and office space in 6,000 square feet of the former Frito-Lay processing facility. The district refurbished the building it purchased in December 2010 to accommodate its central maintenance operations.

Timbers Chief Operating Officer Mike Golub praised the partnership between the team and park district as an innovative arrangement with shared benefits.

'This wouldn't have been possible without the Tualatin Hills district,' he said on Tuesday from his office at JELD-WEN Field. 'It's a great case study, in my mind, in a really creative and mutually beneficial partnership. We couldn't have done it without them, and they couldn't have done it without us.'

The arrangement got off the ground in late 2010 as the Timbers prepared to take over PGE Park, home to the former Portland Beavers professional baseball team for decades. The stadium was retrofitted from a baseball orientation to regulation soccer field and renamed in a sponsorship from an Oregon-based window company.

'We knew they were renovating JELD-WEN Field, and knew we needed our own dedicated practice facility,' Golub said. 'We looked at a lot of different areas. It was a pretty creative, unique kind of deal. We wanted to make sure we had the right partners.'

As part of the partnership - based on a 10-year lease arrangement - the Timbers will make an annual donation to the Tualatin Hills Park Foundation and provide a series of annual youth soccer camps and coaching clinics.

'There are many things we'll be able to do with (the district), in terms of camps and clinics,' Golub said. 'We'll bring the Timbers into the community and the community to our games. Beaverton is our second home. We'll do a number of things as part of this partnership that benefits kids. It's very gratifying.'

Teamwork

Construction for the two new soccer fields started last fall on vacant space next to the former Frito-Lay and Grandma's Cookies facility just west of Highway 217 and south of Denney Road.

The park district acquired the 90,000-square-foot building and 13 acres of land in December 2010 with the intention of relocating its maintenance operations from the Howard M. Terpenning Complex at 158th Avenue and Southwest Walker Road. The district transformed the cavernous warehouse to accommodate its building, park, fleet and athletic field maintenance groups while providing office space for the staff in its maintenance, planning and natural resources divisions.

With the district and Timbers fully moved in, the building still has 18,000 square feet of open space district officials intend to lease to other clients.

'Our new site is helping us serve patrons better by providing a larger, more centralized location for our maintenance staff and other departments,' said park district General Manager Doug Menke. 'And thanks to our partnership with the Timbers, the new synthetic turf field will help young athletes stay fit and hone their skills.'

Kicking in

Gery Keck, bond planning manager for the park district, said the collaboration with the Timbers transformed would otherwise be a utilitarian, behind-the-scenes maintenance complex into a new recreational opportunity for the community.

'Without the Timbers partnership, we would not have the fields out there,' he said. 'We would've had the opportunity, but not the funding at this time.'

Looking forward to the facility's grand opening event and the Timbers' season moving forward, Golub said it feels good to be at the successful end of a complex business arrangement.

'It was a challenging deal,' he said. 'There was no blueprint for this kind of deal. But we're really pleased with the outcome.'