Yesterday was my last opportunity to get inside JELD-WEN Field to chronicle the renovation process that has turned the place from a quasi-baseball park into what I’m sure we’ll now find is the newest Gem of American Soccer Stadia™.
It was also Media Day, so there were all the players, mingling with the bloggers and sports writers.
KeyBank President Brian Rice kicked off the event, giving everyone a quick rundown of the amenities of the new stand and the club restaurant where we were gathered (short version: the place is well-appointed).
After that the media was let loose on the players, who’d been lined up in the back of the room, conveniently seated near the buffet line (they’d just finished their first training session on the JWF pitch, I’m sure they were hungry, and the pot roast and potatoes certainly did the trick).
I didn’t go to this event with the intention of schmoozing the players; I went to get some pics of the stadium, so I wasn’t prepared for much in the way of interviewing. I did chat up Bright Dike a little bit, along with OregonLive.com blogger Rick Curwen; Bright is in good spirits, despite that enormous boot on his foot, and he assured us he’d be back on the pitch before the end of the regular season.
For me the event was both surreal — to be eating lunch with the team in a fancy club restaurant above what used to be left-center field — and a welcome taste of the intimacy that we as fans have always shared with the team. I have been worried that this intimacy would ebb away with the club moving up to the top division, and all the changes one would expect to accompany that move. I’m sanguine that the familial relationship will continue.
Also: Horstache! lol
For some actual reportage on the Media Day event (including the preceding training session, most of which I missed), I would like to direct you to the following links:
2011 Portland Timbers Media Day Extravaganza [Dropping Timber]
The Start of a New Era [Stumptown Footy]
Portland Timbers practice in updated Jeld-Wen Field [The Oregonian]
Training Update: April 12th [Timbers Insider]
All systems go for Portland’s JELD-WEN debut [PortlandTimbers.com]
Stadium Porn Addendum: Craig Mitchelldyer has posted a time-lapse video of the entire renovation process. It’s…beautiful! [Watch it here.]