Hillsboro Stadium stunts athletic program’s growth

Hillsboro Stadium would be the perfect home venue for Portland State sports. It seats 7,600 people, which is a number that the Vikings fans near in attendance at football games. It also has a turf that was newly renovated in the last five years.

But it’s called Hillsboro Stadium for a reason—it’s 14 miles away from campus.

Portland—nicknamed Soccer City, USA—has a college nestled right in the middle of it, yet they play their soccer in the suburbs. If you need an example for how soccer has been successful in Portland, just look across the river at the University of Portland.

If PSU’s women’s soccer team played the University of Portland on the road, it would be closer to campus than to PSU’s home stadium in Hillsboro. UP is less than seven miles away from PSU—half the length students would have to travel to catch a home game.

So PSU students have to make the trek out to Hillsboro by driving or taking public transportation to watch their women’s soccer team play a home game. And not just soccer; even the football team has made an appearance or two out in Hillsboro.

Is the long journey worth it?

Like most sports, this doesn’t matter when teams are winning. But in the case of women’s soccer, the argument can be made that they are the most successful sport at PSU. They are always contending for Big Sky championships and post-season berths in the NCAA tournament. They play big games against big teams. They have been winning.

Everything about women’s soccer at PSU says that they should garner support from Vikings students. But at 14 miles away from campus, how can anyone expect Vikings fans to travel for home games?

Even winning teams aren’t worth students traveling so far out of their way. It would take a lot to get PSU women’s soccer recognized with a big home crowd. PSU would have to be on the national radar. But why should it take that much to get people to go out to games? If it is that difficult to support a team, why are they playing at Hillsboro Stadium where are they guaranteed to get less support?

The city of Portland isn’t exactly built to suit a stadium where PSU can play soccer. There’s no room for anything of that size to be built. Providence Park, where the football team plays, isn’t necessarily the solution either. Still a way from campus, the home of the Timbers has limited parking, and putting a few hundred people in a stadium that seats 20,000 makes a small crowd even more insignificant.

In order for PSU sports to advance at all in any capacity, stadiums that are in Hillsboro cannot be a part of the PSU home venue. This is already a school that struggles to get people to home games that are just a few blocks away at the Peter W. Stott Center.

And with an upcoming contract running out with Providence Park, Hillsboro Stadium is in the running to host all home football games. Can you imagine having to go 14 miles from campus to watch a football game? If attendance at Providence Park is low, what kind of crowds would show up on a rainy Saturday to watch the Vikings lose to Idaho State 31-13?

There are ways in which PSU could make Hillsboro Stadium attractive to students, like having shuttles back and forth between campus to get to games. But as a student, would you really like to take the time to travel all the way out there if your football team is losing?

Shuttling students to Hillsboro would be the only way that PSU could justify having any kind of athletic events 14 miles away from campus. And even then, that is only for students who are on campus, which at a commuter school is not that many.

The worst part of all of this? There isn’t a clear fix. Without anything else closer, other than high school stadiums and Providence Park, PSU is in a position where 14 miles away is their best option. How can that be? What does having the best athletic venue for outdoor sports in Hillsboro say about our athletic program?

Through all of this, there are a lot of questions that can’t be answered about PSU’s athletic complexes. But if one thing is for sure, it is that in order for athletics at PSU to evolve, Hillsboro Stadium cannot be a part of the future.