Good news soccer fans!
You can return to Providence Park.
The Portland Timbers and Thorns FC organizations jointly announced they will allow 25% capacity for home matches at Providence Park this upcoming season, beginning on April 9th when Thorns FC hosts KC NWSL in their first match of the NWSL Challenge Cup.
The Timbers will host fans on April 13, when the club plays C.D. Marathón in a Round of 16 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League match.
The announcement comes after Oregon Health Authority said it will allow 25% capacity at live sporting events and Governor Kate Brown confirmed all Oregonians will be eligible to get vaccinated by May 1st.
“We are sincerely grateful to Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority for their hard work and support in getting fans back safely at Providence Park,” said owner and CEO Merritt Paulson. “As we enter a period of great optimism with falling COVID-19 rates and increased vaccine deployment, the protection of our fans, staff and players remains our top priority and we will diligently follow all public health protocols to ensure our plan is executed safely. It will be a special moment to have our fans back in the stands on April 9 and we hope that on the current trajectory, we will be able to safely increase capacity throughout the summer.”
"A complete set of health and safety protocols for events at Providence Park will be available at Timbers.com and ThornsFC.com later today," said the teams via release. "Safety measures in place include cashless transactions (Apple Pay and Google Pay), mandatory mask wearing, completely digital ticketing, a clear bag policy, online ordering for food, beverage and merchandise, expanded sanitation protocols and spaced pod seating."
Timbers owner Merrit Paulson tweeted how excited he is to welcome back supporters to the stands.
Last week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the state will begin reopening sports stadiums to 25% capacity.
In response, the Portland Timbers announced the team would likely welcome back supporters to attend games when permitted by Oregon state leadership.
Last October, Timbers owner Merritt Paulson tweeted how fun last season's Portland team had been to follow and how it's "a shame no fans have seen it live."
Paulson followed up by stating he wants to host fans at Providence Park sooner than later.
"Oregon has managed COVID well," wrote Paulson. "We have the 2nd lowest infection rate in the country. We can 100% safely manage a limited crowd. Hopefully, we will get a chance in 2020."
The Timbers have not had any fans at Providence Park since a 1-0 victory over Nashville SC on March 8, 2020. The MLS regular season would be suspended due to the coronavirus the following week.
During the restart, the Timbers have not allowed any fans to attend games but some other MLS teams have, such as FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City, Orlando City SC and Real Salt Lake.
2,912 people attended the first FC Dallas game since the restart, more than 2,000 people are less than were permitted to attend the match.
However, the Timbers have held one of the league's strongest home-field advantages for seasons, currently holding a 163-game sellout streak with an average attendance of 25,218 fans in 2019.
Per The New York Times, Oregon had at least 15 new COVID-19 related deaths and 212 new reported cases on March 16th, a 16% decrease in cases and 35% decrease in deaths from the average two weeks ago. The average daily cases in Multnomah County is 52 or six per 100,000 people over the last seven days.
At the time of Paulson's tweets, Multnomah County has been approved for Phase 1 re-openings which include "limited reopening of personal services like salons and barbers, gyms, and malls, and restaurants and bars open for in-person service until 10pm," per Oregon.gov. Mass gatherings such as sporting events will not be permitted until Phase 3.
On Friday, March 12, Multnomah County moves to the “Moderate Risk” category permitting "further expansion of indoor and outdoor capacities at home, as well as at restaurants and bars, shopping centers, entertainment venues, gyms, faith institutions, and other indoor and outdoor services and activities," per release. That's an improvement from the "High Risk" category the county had been in.
As far as cases in the last seven days, Oregon ranked 14th-best in the United States with 294. Per 100,000, Oregon ranks second-best with 7.
The Oregon Health Authority expects 70% of the state's adults will be able to have its first dose of the vaccine by April 21st, enough for most, if not all, willing adults to get it.
"Based on current federal forecasts of vaccines received, we should actually be at a place at April 21, where we would have received enough vaccines to hit 70% of the adult population and as the president said yesterday by the end of May 100% of the adult population," Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen told the Oregon House Subcommittee on COVID-19 on March 3. "We think this is a reasonably reliable forecast of where we should be."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Oregon has reported 160,198 cases and 2,356 deaths.