For those of you not members of the 107ist (if you read this site, you should be), the TA sent out an email today that was more than a bit troubling. According to the email, the TA has been getting some "telling signs" from the front office about wanting to switch the lower bowl, if not all of, the TA from General Admission seating to reserved seating.
The following email, included in its entirety below, is a manifesto on why this move could horribly fracture the incredible dynamic of the TA, and how this change could destroy how the TA as we know it from the inside. If you can't tell, I'd be wholeheartedly opposed to this switch, as it would eradicate the ability to get tickets for those of us who don't already have season tickets as you could no longer sit with whoever you wanted, while simultaneously destroying the excitement and fun of the lines on game-day.
We didn't become who we are today by being seated and reasonable. Don't mess with the best atmosphere in soccer. Defend GA and defend the TA as we know it. Any problems that exist with GA seating can be addressed without this drastic of a measure.
WHY IT'S VITAL THAT THE TIMBERS ARMY SECTIONS REMAIN GENERAL ADMISSION Think back to your first experiences in the Timbers Army.
Did you buy a ticket somewhere else in the stadium, look over to the North End, say to yourself "That looks like a lot more fun" and wander over to investigate?
Did a friend bring you to your first match and squeeze you in among other folks who introduced you to our songs and traditions?
Did you migrate from one section to another for your first couple of games trying to find a "home" with folks who fit your idea of what mental and barmy is all about?
Or did you head to the 200 sections where the pace is a bit slower and elbow room is easier to find?
And once you found your "home" in the North End, how many friends did you bring along to share what is one of the most unique experiences in world soccer?
What is the one thing that all of those things have in common? General Admission.
General admission is part and parcel of who and what the Timbers Army is about: freedom, movement, sharing and spreading the love, and making new friends and connecting with old. And the 107ist board is unanimous in our assertion that general admission is essential to creating the atmosphere that has been the talk of MLS since our first moments in the league.
The Timbers Army grew out of a communal experience that has been fostered and fueled by the loose, democratic, and very-Portland vibe that comes with general admission seating. You're part of a big tribe but have your own tent that pitches up in different places for different matches. You meet new people at every game. You're Timbers Army and you have an infinity of brothers and sisters. And all of that would be at risk or outright finished if the North End were turned into just another assigned-seating area.
Many questions have recently been raised regarding why we have kept general admission vs. reserved seating in the Timbers Army section. And the leadership of 107ist has been working on ways to ease many of the frustrations that have arisen with the increased crowds in the MLS era.
There are also many questions to be asked about what would happen if the Timbers Army went to a reserved seating section. We’ve come up with a quick FAQ that we think might be of help when considering your position on general admission seating in the Timbers Army section.
Q: Where will I be able to get seats?
A: The lower bowl has 1,944 seats by our last count and the Timbers Army sections hold roughly 5,000. The Timbers front office has stated that if they do move to a reserved seating section those with priority will have first crack at the tickets. Priority is code for how long you’ve had your season tickets. To put this very plainly if you didn’t purchase your first season tickets until the MLS era you’ll likely be in the upper 200s with the ability to move down only coming when other season ticket holders in the lower 100 levels opt not to renew.
Q: Will I get to sit next to my friends?
A: Given that the section is completely sold out unless you purchased season tickets at the same time, the chances are slim.
Q: Will this eliminate lines to get into Jeld-Wen Field?
A: Yes. However there are consequences to this. Think about what the rest of the reserved seating sections in the stadium look like in the East, West, and South before the start of the match. Likely most of the North End would also show up at kick off or just after creating large holes in the crowd in the North End, directly affecting the Timbers Army’s ability to create the most intimidating home crowd in MLS.
Q: What happens if I get tickets next to someone I don’t like?
A: Given that the section is completely sold out your options will likely be very limited. This means the “choose your own adventure” aspect we have long enjoyed will be eliminated. Right now if you don’t like where you are seated you can move anywhere you want. That won’t be an option with reserved seating.
Q: Are there other general admission sections at other stadiums around the league?
A: Nothing to the scale of what we have in Portland, however most supporters groups are pushing for their sections to be changed to general admission because they feel that assigned seating hinders their ability to grow andbecause of many other reasons the 107ist board has cited such as personality differences, atmosphere and so on. In fact there are many groups in England pushing hard to have the all-seated stadiums converted back to safe standing terraces due to the effect it has had on the atmosphere of the stadium. In fact simply Googling the phrase “effect on atmosphere of all-seater stadia” is quite depressing.
Q:Why is the 107ist board concerned with this now?
A: We are receiving telling signs that the Timbers Front Office wants to move in this direction and feel it’s important that the Timbers Army as a whole understand all the implications of reserved seating. We don’t want what has happened in places like Toronto or Philadelphia to happen here and feel that not only is it dangerous to meddle with the most intimidating atmosphere in the league but see it as a poor business decision for the Timbers Front Office itself. Ask yourself this question. If your reserved seats were near the top of the 200 section how likely would you be to renew? If you had a chance to acquire tickets in the lower bowl how much of a premium price would you be willing to pay for those seats?
Q:How would assigned seating affect the actual game-day experience?
A: Many tickets to the lower bowl will be available only through scalpers on the internet or outside the stadium. They will charge a greater premium for those seats than they charge now, and they will sell them to fans not used to what the Timbers Army experience is like. Do you wave flags or hold up two-sticks? Do you stand the whole match? Do you jump and clap and sing for victory? How would you like to explain all of that to someone who purchased an assigned lower bowl ticket from a scalper and feels entitled to sit quietly and watch the match without noise or obstruction? How would you like less singing, less tifo, less Tetris, less mental, less barmy? That's all in jeopardy with assigned seating.
Q: Will the prices change?
A: It's common sense to assume the 100 level would be pricier than the 200 level.
Please consider all of this if you are asked about reserved seating in the TA section. It may seem a good idea in the short term, it may mean you don't have to worry about getting in line hours before kickoff to be with your pals, but the overall atmosphere and experience of Timbers matches will be diminished. And if you wanted a lesser experience you could simply move to Seattle.
There are already 15,000-plus reserved seats at Jeld-Wen Field, and it's a hell of a job to get the people who are in them to participate and support the team loud and strong for 90 minutes. There is no doubt that the imposition of assigned seating in the Timbers Army sections of the stadium will result in pockets of the North End becoming just as stale and complacent as the east and west stands.