This first trip down to Portland in the MLS era for a Cascadia Cup match between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders will be on familiar ground, but in some ways an unfamiliar stadium. JELD-WEN Field has some significant redesign to it, with some new stands and new experiences. For those fans that traveled down in the past it will both be similar and different. As this is the first journey of the new era for 500+ Sounders fans let's check in with Geoff Gibson of StumptownFooty about what should be expected this Sunday. Our standard game specific three questions will be up later this week.
SaH: First off, for those traveling supporters, where is the section they will be now compared to where they were?
Geoff: Same section. No difference. Seattle Fans will still be in sections 123 and 223 above the beer garden. The Timbers Army are in the same section as last year as well so, for those visited for the US Open Cup game last year, the seating experience will largely remain unchanged.
SaH: You say "above the beer garden" have past security concerns about that beer garden been addressed?
Geoff: ... the beer garden situation should be much different this time around. It's no longer open to anybody who wants to wander in. It now requires a special ticket to get in. The Seattle Sounders visiting fans will have no access to it unless they are with people who either have season ticket reservations in the area.
SaH: For those people scattered throughout the stadium is there a vantage point that they should encounter that is unique to the new structure?
Geoff: There are few bad seats in the stadium. That said, if any Sounders fans get a chance I highly recommend wandering around to the new area and getting a good look at the stadium from the Providence Healthcare building in the southeast side. Additionally, if possible, getting to the southend would be a treat just because, at that point, you're at the same level as the players, something that's quite fun to experience.
SaH: was there a significant upgrade in food and beverage options within the stadium?
Geoff: Yes and no, if that makes any sense. Widmer is now much more prominent within the stadium and they offer a wider selection of craft beer alongside the usual Budweiser crap, but aside from that everything is more or less the same. Same nachos, hotdogs, etc. They may have changed the vendor but the food largely tastes the same. That said, there is a Burgerville food truck that will be around so people can get great food before the game, right outside the stadium.
SaH: Speaking of right outside the stadium, has the neighborhood changed due to the money/excitement of the new stadium/team?
Geoff: Not in a permanent sense, at least not yet. I'm assuming it's going to take more than a few months to see permanent changes. That said, the immediate surrounding area is far busier than it was last year with local Hot Lips Pizza, Tropical Smoothie Cafe and other eateries bustling. The stadium also has a large section of Morrison blocked off for bike parking and, when the game gets let out 18th is shut down between Morrison and Salmon to allow fans to walk back to the MAX without worrying about cars. Oh and I wouldn't really bother trying to go to the usual Burnside bars as they're usually packed for a few hours before each game.
SaH: All the rivalry ribbing aside, this is a top 3 match all year (opener, one up here), how electric do you expect the atmosphere to be for this ESPN game?
Geoff: Expect everybody to be on their 'A' game so to say. I would presume that the energy level coming from the Timbers Army will at least match what was seen on opening night. With the Sounders fans adding a bit of energy as well I would hope the overall intensity and energy of the crowd will far exceed what we've already experienced. Expect large displays of tifo, obviously... we'll be looking to leave the stadium with a new high.