Fans Set to Return to Outdoor Sporting Events at Limited Capacity in Oregon

The Portland Thorns’ April 9 game will be Oregon’s first live major sporting event with fans in the stands since the Blazers played on March 10, 2020.

By Margaret Seiler March 17, 2021

Following new guidance announced today by the Oregon Health Authority, the Portland Thorns and Timbers games are set to host fans in the stands at 25 percent capacity (the limit for outdoor entertainment venues in moderate-risk counties), beginning with the Thorns’ NWSL Challenge Cup opening game on April 9 against Kansas City and the Timbers’ Round of 16 game on April 13 against C. D. Marathón in the Concacaf Champions League.

Providence Park’s official capacity is 25,218, a quarter of which is approximately 6,300. Season ticket holders, who have been holding a credit since games were canceled last year, will have first crack at claiming available seats, with the longest-tenured ticket holders getting to choose first. Seats will be spaced out throughout the park, in small groupings with skipped rows, often not in the season ticket holder’s usual section. Single-game tickets will be available to the general public only if any go unclaimed among the approximately 19,000 Timbers and 12,000 Thorns season ticket holders.

“We are just so hungry to see our fans back,” Mike Golub, president of business for both teams, said in a virtual press conference on March 17. Golub described these new steps as part of a “hopeful trajectory,” and spoke of the “emotional and psychic lift it will give our community.”

Golub said live events elsewhere with fans in attendance have given the Portland group an “opportunity to study best practices.” Fanless games at Providence Park last summer and fall still had around 300 people on site, including team personnel, media, security, and others, and that experience helped establish a baseline protocol, said Golub. Since then they’ve worked with a Barcelona-based company to essentially redraw the stadium with the new capacity, and fans can expect staggered entrance and exit locations (but not assigned entrance and exit times), designated paths, up aisles and down aisles, “a plethora of sanitation stations,” and a cashless, mobile-ordering concession service with a scaled-down menu.

Supporters groups the Timbers Army and the Rose City Riveters have been a part of the planning, Golub said, and he expects “a raucous environment” even with reduced capacity and assigned seating.

Another group looking forward to the return of fans is the players themselves.

“I’ve never played at Providence with fans—well, fans that would be supporting me and not not supporting me,” Becky Sauerbrunn, the US National Team defender who joined the Thorns in early 2020 after seasons with Utah and Kansas City, said in a different press conference on March 17 shortly before the capacity announcement. “So it will be quite the experience for the first time to be playing with and for the fans.”