Spring Reawakening 2021
As the weather gets warmer and more and more people receive COVID-19 vaccinations, live sports are, slowly but surely, returning as an entertainment option.
In March, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced that it would allow fans to attend outdoor sporting events at varying capacity levels based on a county’s COVID-19 risk level—and now, Multnomah County seems to be on its way to achieving a “low risk” level in the near future, meaning we could achieve 50 percent capacity this summer.
For now, attending these games will be different. People could be sequestered in pods and seated away from other fans. But it is a first step towards seeing our stadiums once again erupt full of life and color.
Current Stadium Capacity: 25 percent
The Timbers were among the final teams in Major League Soccer to announce plans to welcome fans back to their stadium when the OHA announced its guidelines in March. After a minor setback when Multnomah County was moved to “extreme risk” for a week last month, Providence Park is currently allowed to host fans at up to 25 percent capacity.
Fans can now purchase tickets to attend home games and support the team in what could be its final chance to make a championship run with 35-year-old Diego Chará and 35-year-old Diego Valeri leading the way.
The Timbers will be back at home on June 19 when they face Sporting Kansas City. Here’s hoping that the woman who put her Timbers tickets in her divorce papers has had a chance to get back into the stadium.
Current Stadium Capacity: 25 percent
The Thorns were the first major professional sports team in the state to welcome fans back when they opened the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup with a roiling 2-1 win over an expansion side from Kansas City and then went on to win the season-opening tournament on penalties over Gotham FC nearly a month later.
Like the Timbers, the star-studded Thorns can host crowds of up to 25 percent of the capacity of Providence Park — around 6,500 fans — for the time being. That number is expected to go up in the coming months. You can buy tickets here.
Portland Trail Blazers
Stadium Capacity: 10 percent
The Blazers hadn’t had fans inside the Moda Center since the start of the pandemic, and, as they play indoors, they weren’t covered by the new OHA guidelines allowing fans at outdoor events. That changed earlier this month — hours after a very public remonstration from Damian Lillard — when Gov. Kate Brown bumped Multnomah County from “extreme risk” down to “high risk.”
The Blazers are a six seed in the Western Conference playoffs and are facing the Denver Nuggets in the first round, with longtime head coach Terry Stotts’ job reportedly on the line. Tickets have been scarce for home playoff games, with the Moda Center capacity held to just ten percent. However, Gov. Kate Brown announced this week that fully vaccinated Blazers fans can sit in special sections without physical distancing requirements, meaning more tickets should be opening up. UPDATE: You can snag those vaccinated section tickets starting at noon on Tuesday, May 25.
Stadium Capacity: TBD
The collegiate woodbat team based out of Walker Stadium in Lents Park had a whirlwind 2020, forming its own four-team league and temporarily moving to Aurora to play a shortened season after the West Coast League announced that it was cancelling its 2020 season due to COVID-19.
2021 should be more straightforward. The West Coast League has expanded, adding three new Canadian teams. Walker Stadium has been upgraded with new netting, bathroom facilities, and outfield seating to allow for physical distancing, and the Pickles will open their season in Lents on June 2. Fans will also be able to remote-order food and drinks that will be delivered to their seats.
The Pickles plan to be flexible with capacity and seating options as state restrictions change.
“The Pickles are encouraged by Governor Brown's announcement that all of Oregon can be fully open for business by the end of June,” reads a recent press release. “As state guidelines are loosened we are excited to allow more fans into Walker stadium.”
Stadium Capacity: 25 percent
Portland’s other option for minor league baseball is the Hillsboro Hops, a single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are set to open their eighth season at Ron Tonkin Field on May 4.
The Hops have been something of a juggernaut in their first decade of existence, winning three Northwest League championships between 2014 and 2019. This year, following a controversial restructuring of minor league baseball, the Hops will compete in the new High-A West league.
The team is currently equipped to host 25 percent of the capacity of their stadium in Hillsboro, allowing roughly 1,250 fans to attend each game. You can buy tickets here.
Portland Fighting Shockwave
Stadium Capacity: TBD
The women’s full-contact football team has retaken the field in 2021 after losing their 2020 season to the pandemic, opening their season at home against Seattle on May 1. The club has five more games on its schedule this year, with two set to take place at Hare Field in Hillsboro.
This is the Shockwave’s twentieth season, and, after a 7-1 campaign in 2019, the team has championship ambitions in the Women’s Football Alliance. You can buy tickets here.
In addition to these amatuer and professional sports teams, high school and college sporting events throughout the city and state are also reopening for fans. And maybe just as importantly, pickup leagues and pickup games in backyards and parks are becoming safer options as well.
We love sports for their ability to get us moving, singing, hurting, and hugging strangers. We love them for their ability to break us away from the realities and rhythms of our lives — realities and rhythms that have, in so many ways, been punishing over the last year.
Sports, like music and art, are one of our most redoubtable expressions of collective joy. It is a balm to welcome them back.