Today's Portland Timbers training session debuted the team's new $6,000,000 practice facility in Beaverton. Under a steady drizzle, the team broke in the new grass field as team owner Merritt Paulson addressed the press.
"It's exciting, you know. We put a lot of work into getting this thing right," Paulson started off, glancing over his shoulder at the warm-ups going on behind him.
Paulson was not the only one getting excited about the new team's new digs. After practice, head coach John Spencer praised the new facility as well, saying "It's beautiful. As I say, we spent a lot of money on it and it shows. It is a class facility."
With offices, a player lounge, locker room, gym, and treatment area all enclosed in 6,000 square feet of what was once a Frito-Lay distribution center and has now been taken over by the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Department, the Timbers have a facility that rivals any in Major League Soccer. According to Paulson, "it is a top five training facility in the league."
More on the Timbers new training facility after the jump.
Of course, it was with an eye to the future that the Timbers built the new facility.
"It's a must for the team to have a top shelf training facility. Any major league team needs that and I think that it is going to contribute to the culture and character of this club in a lot of ways," said Paulson.
The Portland area, home to the US headquarters of adidas and the world headquarters of Nike, has been a common stop for the US mens junior national teams (the U-20's held a camp here three weeks ago) and the occasional sponsored athlete, but the Timbers are hopeful that this new facility will bring bigger fish to town.
Paulson outlined his hopes for what the facility will bring to the Timbers, "Certainly it is going to help recruit players. Everything from hosting the United States mens national team to games or that kind of stuff."
Spencer also took a long view of the new training facility. "The natural progression for any club in the world that wants to be talked about as being a very good club and a top club, you've got to have your own practice facilities. Fair play to Merritt. He's put his money where his mouth is again and gave us a tremendous facility to practice in."
Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson was also in attendance and looked at the more immediate effects of finally getting the players out on to the new pitch. "It is good to see them finally out here. This has been a project that has taken a lot of time and effort from many, many people. To see them out here, I think that they are going to be buzzing. They know that the owner is investing a lot of money and for them, they are part of a first class club, so they should be motivated and now we are asking them to repay the favor."
Motivation is not the only thing that the new field provides to the players. Troy Perkins, speaking to the press with blades of freshly torn up grass plastered to his face by the day's rain, said of the pitch, "turf is actually better for you, but growing up playing on grass when you go to turf it is always nicer to go back to grass."
"It is much nicer, diving around on the grass, and it is a much needed relief," said Perkins.
Wilkinson was quick to point out the further benefits of a grass field to the team, saying, "it is important to prepare for the opponent that you know that you are going to be playing. If we are going to be playing teams at Jeld-Wen, then it is important that we train on turf for a couple of days leading up to that game. If we're going to be playing a team on grass than it is important that we train on grass to prepare for similar conditions"
Overall, the feelings on the day were neatly summed up by Merritt Paulson, who quipped at the beginning of practice, "I wish they were out here on a winning streak right now, but it is great to see them out there."