Providence Health and Services photo
Dave Underriner of Providence and Merritt Paulson, Timbers owner, celebrate new stadium name plan.
Providence Health and Services photo
Dave Underriner of Providence and Merritt Paulson, Timbers owner, celebrate new stadium name plan.

A Catholic health system has purchased naming rights for the home of Portland's professional soccer clubs. The Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer and Portland Thorns of the National Women's Soccer League now will play in religiously-named Providence Park.

“We were honored when the Timbers approached us about expanding our partnership,” says Dave Underriner, chief executive for Providence Health and Services in Oregon, a ministry founded in the 1850s by the Sisters of Providence. “The Timbers, like Providence, have a proven track record of giving back to our communities. Together, we look forward to making a difference.”

Since 2011, the stadium has been called Jeld-Wen Field, after an Oregon window manufacturer. Before that, it was PGE Park, sponsored by the region's electric company. For decades before, the sports venue just west of downtown was called Civic stadium. The deal will keep the new name in place for at least 15 years.

The soccer clubs and Providence, the region's largest private employer, announced a set of initiatives that go along with the new name. The park will host the revived Special Olympics Fall Games this year.

“I would like to say thank you to my friend Timber Joey and to Providence,” says Dony Knight, a Special Olympics athlete who is looking forward to the return of the Fall games.

Providence will become a partner in “Somos Timbers,” the team’s outreach to Hispanic communities that includes leadership events for students, soccer clinics and heritage celebrations. The non-profit health system also will give major support to the Portland Timbers Community Fund, which awarded $120,000 to youth-focused nonprofit organizations in 2013. The health system also will back youth soccer camps and field-restoration projects across the region.

“This partnership signifies a huge commitment to the community,” said Merritt Paulson, president of the Timbers.

Providence has made the link between soccer and good health.

“Every Timbers event is a teachable moment to encourage fitness and wellness at any age,” says Dr. James Beckerman, a cardiologist who works for both Providence and the Timbers. “Standing together, with the Timbers, we look forward to inspiring the people in our communities to be more active, lead healthier lives and have fun.”
Providence Park will serve as home to health and wellness events, including a bike ride over the city's bridges, a health expo and the kickoff of a relay run from Mount Hood to the Pacific Coast.

Providence has partnered with the Timbers since 2010 and last year became the Thorns' primary jersey sponsor. Renovations of the stadium included a 12,000 square foot sports medicine clinic on site.

Underriner says the new naming deal has no link to last year's name change to the Portland Trailblazers' NBA court, which is now called the Moda Center, after one of Providence's competitors in health and wellness.