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The immediate future seems dull but as sports with fans in attendance becomes normal again, the need for professionals to “put on the show” will be at an all time high.

Bobby Tarnapoll

Game Day Operations

Portland Timbers

× The interview with Bobby Tarnapoll was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1

My Game Day Operations role allows me to be a part of putting on the “show” for the fans.

Pre-COVID, the Timbers were near max capacity every game and we strive to give all of those fans the ultimate soccer experience.

My role on game days is to be the liaison between the sales team and the fans. The Timbers sells different experiences for fans and the majority of them include coming onto the field level for pregame activities.

For example, groups will come down and get to sit on the Timbers’ bench and watch the team warm up or local soccer teams will get to escort the Timbers and their opponents to the field during the opening ceremony.

It’s my job to fulfill these experiences and give the fans an experience that they’ll never forget.

Once COVID hit and no fans were allowed to attend the games, I shifted responsibilities and joined the production crew and now control the sounds of the stadium. This can be the mixing or being the DJ/playing ambient crowd noises.

I’m still learning this new role and hope to gain more responsibility for the 2021 season.

2Game Day Operations almost always comes with challenges given the unpredictable nature of sport (I.e., Cancellations, rescheduling, weather, protests, etc.). Talk about how you overcome these challenges and have learned not to be hard on yourself for stuff that’s probably beyond your control.

Working in professional sports has taught me that having events go exactly as planned is very seldom a reality.

Just like athletes, we have to adapt and overcome challenges and or setbacks.

Like you said, most of these hiccups are out of our control so we try to “go with the flow” the best that we can.

3Working in Game Day for the Timbers, I am sure you have a lot of knowledge about MLS and their teams. What makes the MLS game day experience unique? Are there any other teams you and your department look too in a highly favorable light? (Side note: I’m a huge Toronto FC fan. So, I am curious to know your thoughts on how they do game day)

The Timbers experience is unique in a way that there’s room for anyone.

If you want to drink a couple of local Oregon craft beers and have a great time, you can sit (mostly stand) with the Timbers Army and cheer along with thousands of screaming fans.

However, you can bring your family, and take in a great soccer atmosphere while treating yourself to some great local northwest food.

Providence Park is a unique experience in itself. It has a long history that dates back to 1926 where it started as a baseball stadium.

Located in the heart of Portland, the nostalgia mixed with the recent renovation/addition lends itself to an experience unlike any other in the MLS.

We do take notes on other clubs but we strive to be unique. I wouldn’t say there are any specific clubs that we look to on a regular basis. Toronto FC looks to be like a great atmosphere, I hope to be able to witness a match soon!

4I noticed you’re also involved in Game Day Operations with the Portland Thorns of the NWSL Tell us about it and any major differences in how events, presentations or promotions are run. Talk about some of the differences from a game day perspective for men’s vs. women’s soccer.

From an operations perspective, the matches are extremely similar and we run them in the same manner.

We have the same promotions for fans during pregame. Each have their nuances, however.

For example, the Timbers players will get a slab of wood cut by our Mascot, Timber Joey, for every goal scored/ shutout had and the Thorns will be given roses.

This is a simple example but each is a very little thing that adds a lot to the experience and culture of each team/brand.

5The future of Game Day Operations is a huge concern for sport professionals. How do you see it panning out?

The immediate future seems dull but as sports with fans in attendance becomes normal again, the need for professionals to “put on the show” will be at an all time high.

I’m positive that the future is bright and that new innovations will come about to make fans’ experiences back in stadiums greater than they were before. I’m excited for that time.

Andres Larranaga Andres's Final Thoughts

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