After a week, most that attended the MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City have finally come down from the high they experienced last week at Sporting Park. Many are probably starting planning their trips to the next MLS All-Star Game the day after, in fact. This year fans really could begin that planning process that early, because unlike years past MLS announced the location of the 2014 All-Star Game a little more than a full year in advance. In prior years the announcement has not come until typically 6-7 months before hand, so the fact that Portland has a whole year to plan should make for a very special event. Business of Soccer had the chance to meet with Portland Timbers COO, Mike Golub, to talk about their plans for hosting the 2014 MLS All-Stars.
Golub’s passion and enthusiasm for the event was evident in the way he talked about the preparations for what he expects to be a “week long celebration of soccer”:
First of all the city is incredibly excited about hosting the All-Star game. Portland has hosted a lot of big events over the years including a lot of big soccer events like the Women’s World Cup and the Gold Cup. But this is going to be one of the biggest events Portland’s ever hosted, and with as much as Portlanders love soccer this is going to be a huge occasion for the city and the community at large.
One of the things that came through loud and clear from Golub was that the committee organized to plan the event wants to make sure that the magic of the All-Star Game is felt for the whole week leading up to the event and not just on the day of the match, and enjoyed by all fans – not just those that purchased tickets for the game. Golub pointed out that he was very impressed with the organization and execution of this year’s event from Sporting KC:
Having a whole year to plan is a really big advantage for us. Obviously the game is the whole centerpiece of the celebration, but we really want to make this a week-long, if not longer, celebration of soccer, of Portland, of the community. Kansas City has been setting a really great example with all of the things they’re doing at the Power and Light district, really extending the reach of the event – and it’s something we face a lot in Portland as it is. We only have a stadium with 20,000 seats and we sell out every game, so we think a lot about how people can interact with the Timbers without actually coming to the game and I think the same is going to be true with the All-Star Game. We want both visitors but also local Portlanders to be able to experience All-Star in a variety of ways throughout the week, even if it doesn’t involve going to the game.
One of the advantages of holding the MLS All-Star Game in Portland is the centralized location of the stadium relative to the accompanying integral pieces of the puzzle, such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation hubs. The city’s infrastructure is well suited as it turns out to host such an event according to Golub:
It’s one of the wonderful qualities of the Timbers in general, to have this historic downtown stadium in the heart of the city and on a regular season Timbers game, the whole city comes alive. You know it’s a Timbers game anywhere downtown the day of the game – long before and long after the game. That’s part of the magic of what we’ve been able to establish in Portland. The same thing will happen with All-Star. Everything is very concentrated in a very short radius, from where people are staying to where people are going out to eat and drink, and the game will all be in walking distance. It’s going to feel like one giant block party if we do our job right.
Something many people do not understand or even think about, is the number of relationships it takes to host an event like the MLS All-Star Game. Golub explained that this was one of the reasons why the Timbers organized a MLS All-Star Game committee, to make sure that every stakeholder had a voice in the planning process:
I think for any sporting entity to thrive in their respective city they must have really good relationships with all of the stakeholders in the community, in both the public sector and the private sector. And we have that on an ongoing basis. We’re just so intertwined with the public and with the city, and we have those relationships already. The idea behind the host committee is just to bring them all together in a formal way around this event to make the most of it. We’re going to have elected officials, we’ll have the transportation entities, we’ll have adidas, and we’ll have some of our corporate partners. Everybody is very proud of Portland and they want to show off our city. They want to show the soccer world how great a soccer town it is. Everybody has this really palpable pride in Portland, and the soccer scene in Portland, so it has all the makings of a really great soccer event. In the process of putting this committee together, which will have its first meeting in the next month or so, we have universal support from every corner of the community pledged behind making this event the best it can possibly be.