A History Of Providence Park

The home of the Timbers gets a new name as part of a 15-year deal
by Ray Marcham   |   Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wikimedia Commons

It’s the same stadium as it has been for almost 90 years, but the home of the Portland Timbers now has a new name.

On Monday afternoon, the Timbers announced that what had been JELD-WEN Field was now Providence Park. The new name is part of a 15-year agreement between the club and Providence Health & Services and adds on to Providence’s already large presence at the stadium. The health care provider already is the shirt sponsor for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns and operates a sports medicine clinic at the southeast corner of the stadium.

The length of the agreement is a major point. Major League Soccer itself is just 19 years old, so a 15-year sponsorship agreement shows faith in the stability of the club and the league. It also puts Providence’s name out to a wider audience, as outlets around the world will be using the “Providence Park” name frequently when discussing the Timbers. The name will also last past the stadium’s centennial, becoming a major part of the legacy of all that’s happened over the past decades.

The new name is the latest chapter in the history of the stadium. Through all of the renovations, name changes and various teams and events, the old yard at 18th and Morrison is still very much Portland’s gathering place for big outdoor sporting events. Whether it’s been called Multnomah Stadium, Civic Stadium, PGE Park, JELD-WEN Field or Providence Park, it’s been the workhorse of Portland sports. Even attempts to replace it in the 1960s with a domed stadium in north Portland or with a baseball stadium in southeast Portland in the 2000s were rejected, and the stadium survived to see its biggest moments.

Few locations in professional sports in the United States have so much history. While the main part of the stadium was completed in 1926, there have been sporting events played at the site since the 1890s.

The stadium site was owned for many decades by the Multnomah Athletic Club. They established the original Multnomah Field in 1893, and later financed the building of what became Multnomah Stadium in the 1920s. The club built its complex at the south end of the stadium, and it's “new” building, complete with a seating area where members can watch games, still stands.

Since then, the stadium has had many names, multiple remodels and plenty to keep it busy. From the beginning, soccer and football were a big part of the schedule, but other sports have been major draws. Greyhound racing was very popular at the stadium in the 1930s, and stayed until the mid-50s. Both Australian football and Canadian football used the stadium to help expand their reach into the US. The NFL played exhibition games for many years there, including the first overtime game in the league’s history in 1955.

Baseball was associated with the stadium for many years, but Multnomah Stadium was already 30 years old when the Portland Beavers moved over from Vaughn Street in 1956. Minor league baseball remained, off and on, for the next 50-plus years. Occasionally, it was mentioned as a possible future MLB stadium, but the closest it came was being a finalist to receive the Montreal Expos in 2003.

These days, it’s soccer that the old stadium is known for, and what a soccer history it has. It was the scene of Pele’s last match, when the New York Cosmos beat the Seattle Sounders in Soccer Bowl ’77. The south goal is where Tab Ramos scored to lift the US Men’s National Team past Costa Rica in 1997 and into the 1998 World Cup. Both the 1999 and 2003 Women’s World Cup staged matches at the stadium, with both semifinals in 2003 being played in what was PGE Park.

And, of course, the various highs and lows of the Timbers that have taken place there. Whether it was the NASL, the Western Soccer Alliance/League, the A-League/USL First Division or MLS, the historic field on the west edge of downtown Portland has been the home to professional soccer in the city.

Thus, a new era begins in the history of Portland’s stadium. On Feb. 23, the first games to be played in Providence Park will take place as part of the Rose City Invitational preseason tournament. It’ll also be the first chance to see the new signage, new turf and maybe try out a few new nicknames based on the new name.

But it’s still the same stadium. It’s still Multnomah Stadium. It’s still Civic Stadium. It’s still PGE Park. It’s still JELD-WEN Field. It’s still where Portland has gathered for 88 years, making memories that last forever.

And those memories will keep being made for many years to come.

NEXT UP: February 23 – Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Providence Park, Portland, Ore. 8 p.m. EST, Timbers.com.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
RAY'S SPONSORS