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Six Degrees: If I Owned the Team – TriMet

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City bus in Portland, Oregon, USA Photo by: Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images

1) Okay, kids, we’re gonna start a new series today. A series that might make Merritt Paulson angry, but will more likely make him howl with laughter. Over the next six or seven weeks, I’m going to tell you what I’d do if, one, I owned the Timbers/Thorns, and two, I was absurdly rich. Not Jeff Bezos-rich, but richer than Merritt Paulson. Rich enough that the team wasn’t my main source of income, but was more of a hobby. Rich enough that I didn’t need the team to make a profit, I just needed them to break even.

I’ve got a bunch of ideas already planned out, some plausible, some implausible, but all pretty cool in a this-will-never-happen-but-it’s-fun-to-imagine kind of way.

2) This week’s idea: your ticket to the game is also a TriMet day pass. Not a coupon that will get you a discount on a day pass, but an actual day pass. On game day, you just show your ticket to the bus driver/streetcar driver/max driver and they let you on. All day, all night, just like any other day pass.

3) The details: this could mean a lot of money for TriMet. How much?

TriMet’s website tells me that a day pass costs $5. 17 days a year, I’ll have about 25,000 people coming to watch the Timbers play. At $5 a pop, that’s $125,000 for TriMet each game, and $2,125,000 over the course of the year. Think they’d like another $2,125,000?

But what if owner-C.I. wants a bargain rate? Could I talk TriMet down to $1? That would still be an extra $25,000 for TriMet each and every game day, and $425,000 over the course of the year. Think they’d like that money?

And that’s just for the 17 regular season Timbers games. If I got the same deal for the Thorns, that’s 20,000 fans, 12 days a year.

Then there are preseason games, postseason games, and the occasional US Open Cup and CCL games. Altogether, we’re looking at 35-40 days each year. Even if owner-C.I. talked TriMet down to $1 per ticket, we’d still be putting a lot of money into TriMet’s pockets. What price do you think they’d give me? One dollar per day pass? Two dollars? The full five dollars?

4) The positives: so many people could benefit from this.

The fans? Some of them will continue to drive, but others would love to leave their car at home. They wouldn’t have to deal with downtown traffic, they wouldn’t have to find/pay for parking, and once at the game, they could drink an extra beer or two, knowing they wouldn’t have to drive home.

TriMet? They’d get a big wad of money 35-40 times a year. And since not all fans will use the day pass, some of that money would be straight profit. Plus, if fans like the experience, TriMet might pick up some new daily riders.

Portland businesses? This might be a windfall for them, too, since fans might use the day pass to come into town early. Think about it, if you’re a fan and you’ve suddenly got this free day pass, you and the family might decide to make Timbers and Thorns games an all-day thing. You could have breakfast at home, grab the MAX into town, take the kids to OMSI, get lunch at that sushi place everyone likes, maybe go shopping at that spot your friend told you about, see that thing at Pioneer Courthouse square, get dinner, go to the Timbers/Thorns game, drink a few extra beers, then take TriMet home. No driving, no parking, just a fun day and a whole bunch of money spent at local businesses.

5) The potential negatives: how am I paying for this?

Do I raise ticket prices a little? Fans might not mind an extra $1/game, but $5? Fans won’t like that, even with the free day pass. Especially the ones who like driving.

And would TriMet want a whole bunch of new riders on game days? I assume they would, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it would be a giant headache for them.

What if I went to the Chamber of Commerce (or the Better Business Bureau or whatever) and told them people might come into town for the day and spend a lot of money? Maybe they’d pitch in a little money to make this happen. Hell, if I sell it right, maybe they’d pay for the whole thing.

6) In the real world, where Merritt Paulson still owns the team, could this actually happen? Hard to say, since I don’t know the true economics of this. Yes, this feels like a situation where everyone benefits, but nothing is ever perfect. Maybe TriMet would want too much money. Maybe they can’t handle extra riders. Maybe the people who run the downtown parking lots would fight to keep this from happening. Maybe Uber would fight it.

Or, hell, maybe we fans would fight it. A lot of people really don’t like public transit. They don’t even like the idea of it. If those fans found out this idea would increase their ticket prices a buck or two, maybe they’d raise enough hell that the team would give up on the idea.

But it’s a neat idea and in the imaginary world where I own the team and am rich enough that I don’t need to make a profit, I’d definitely try to make this happen.


What do you think? Bad idea? Good idea but slightly flawed? What flaws do you spot? Gimme some ideas to fix them. Let’s see if we can make this happen – in our imaginary world, at least.