A group seeking to bring professional soccer to Portland will officially present proposals for possible stadium sites to city officials on Tuesday.

The group, USL to Portland, will be asking Portland’s Housing and Economic Development Committee to “review, discuss, and provide direction,” on their outlines for having a soccer stadium to house a USL League One franchise at either the Preble Street Field site near Back Cove or at a renovated Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“We have been working behind the scenes with city staff for more than a year to evaluate the two stadium options presented,” the group states in its formal proposal. “We are now seeking direction from the City Council and hope to begin negotiations with city staff for the renovation and lease of one of the two proposed stadium locations.”

The group has identified two sites for building a soccer-specific stadium, which also could be used to host concerts and other events. One is at the Preble Street Field, which is flanked by Back Cove and Interstate 295. That site is now under construction for a stormwater project.

The second site calls for a significant rehabilitation of Fitzpatrick Stadium that would include removing the outdoor track to allow widening of the artificial surface field to meet standards set by the United Soccer League, which oversees USL League One.

According to USL to Portland, either project would have an overall cost of $10 million to $12 million. Means of funding the projects are not specified, other than noting that the soccer group would be looking to establish long-term lease or rental agreements with the city.


Gabe Hoffman-Johnson, the founder and president of USL to Portland, declined an interview request Monday. A spokesperson for the group said it would wait to comment until after Tuesday’s Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting.

“We want to honor the public process,” Diana Nelson said. “We don’t want to comment on the two locations prior to having elected officials review it first.”

USL League One is the third tier of professional soccer in North America, below Major League Soccer, and the USL Championship league. Launched in 2019 with 10 teams, the league expanded to 12 teams for 2021, with a regular season schedule that runs from May through the end of October. In 2020, United Soccer League officials expressed support for Portland as an expansion site, pending having a stadium. According to the USL to Portland’s proposal document, the league has given Portland’s ownership group “official approval as an expansion market,” contingent upon stadium development.

The league has stated it would like to have 30 or more franchises operating when the United States hosts the World Cup in 2026.

The local ownership group, which includes Portland-based developer Jonathan Culley and his wife, Catherine Culley, notes in its planned presentation that the group did a “lengthy analysis of potential stadium locations.”

The Preble Street Field would allow for a stadium built specifically for soccer, offering an iconic view of Back Cove. The new structure would provide the city with additional space to host high school, club and adult athletics, concerts, beer festivals, and state and collegiate soccer championships. The soccer group is proposing a “low-cost land lease” with the city to use the property.


But the location could present zoning, environmental and compliance difficulties. The USL to Portland group said three separate technical feasibility studies it had done showed the site “while challenging … is suitable with coordinated effort between city and soccer development team.”

Fitzpatrick Stadium’s 6,000-seat capacity easily meets the USL’s requirement of a facility having at least 3,500 seats. But the current artificial surface is too narrow. USL requires a 70-yard by 110-yard pitch. Also, the outdoor track decreases the intimacy factor of having fans near the action.

The proposal calls for eliminating the current track, which was installed in 2015 at the same time the artificial surface field was replaced, and building a new track at either Payson Park or Dougherty Field.

The USL to Portland group’s proposal for Fitzpatrick calls for a “rental agreement” that would “facilitate redevelopment of Fitzpatrick Stadium. The project would upgrade the existing facility, and maintain Portland Schools and public access.”

Moving the track, and the associated cost, is the most obvious impediment to using Fitzpatrick. In addition, locker rooms (high school football teams use facilities in the Portland Expo) and modern concessions and media facilities would be required.

Separate from its quest to find a stadium site, USL to Portland has been working to build diverse and broad community support. It touts having over 4,100 followers across various social media platforms. An independent supporters group called Dirigo Union also has formed.

The Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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