An Insider’s History to OPI

by Shawn Levy, Timbers Army elder, capo emeritus, and board member of Operation Pitch Invasion

About three years ago, when it became evident that Major League Soccer in Portland was likely and that the Timbers Army would become a much bigger entity than anyone imagined, those of us who worked on the day-to-day business of the Timbers Army got together to ponder the question of what we might do with all the positive power, energy, communitarianism and goodwill that a massive Timbers Army would comprise.

Suppose we could bottle the spirit of the TA — the team/town/TA triangle, OUR THING — and do something with it, we asked ourselves. What would it look like, how would it work, what would we do?

What followed was a good 15-18 months of careful building of what became the 107 Independent Supporters Trust — a vehicle for all of our creativity, passion, entrepreneurialism, desire to work with management and the community.

But at that very first meeting, our very own future billboard model Fernando Machicado volunteered the first suggestion of what to do with all that energy that we were hoping and preparing to marshal: restore and maintain soccer fields in Portland Public Parks and Schools.

That inspiration was greeted with unanimous acceptance, and even through the various spasms and backslides that characterized the creation of 107ist, that inspiration remained our guiding star. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that 107ist was created in order to realize that vision.

Well, Operation Pitch Invasion is the fruition of that vision: the use of Timbers Army fundraising, sweat equity and deal-making to give back to the community in the form of quality places to play the game. And we want you involved.

Operation Pitch Invasion is a means for anyone who cares about the community in which they live to give back by building and maintaining for soccer fields where all of us, our children and our grandchildren can play the game we love. And where, we hope, future Timbers will learn the game — from current and past Timbers and members of the Timbers Army.

OPI is a project of 107ist, which has given it seed money and will be one of its principle funders over time. This year, OPI will be small there have been so many other things to take care of with the arrival of MLS, and because the founders wanted to make sure that it was ready for its close-up before unveiling it to the larger group. Now we’re ready, and we’ve got plans.

Our projects in this inaugural year will be a dry run of sorts: shovel-ready restoration and maintenance projects that depend more on an army of volunteers than extensive funds. OPI will also be part of 107ist’s contribution to certain projects planned by AC Portland. In the fall, we hope to build our first fields at a park in SE Portland. In coming years, with fuller budgets and more experience, we may do as many as 15-20 projects per year; the region isn’t running out of parks or schools with crappy fields, after all.

I tell you all this because OPI is a project very dear to me, to the Timbers Army at large and to others. We have received much from the community, from the Timbers organization and from our Team. And while we have never been less than vocal about our passion, and while we have done and continue to do MANY good works, we haven’t realized the fullest possible manifestation of our civic pride in the community. OPI is the means to achieve this, and it needs the same sort of human effort that the Timbers Army puts into its epic gameday support of the team.

You say you want to help keep the energy flowing in the Eternal Golden Triangle of Team/Town/TA? You say you want to be buried in Timbers green, that you know you are and are sure you are Rose City till you die, that you’re a true supporter for ever more?

Well, this is your chance to show it in a way that all of Portland can see and respect and acknowledge and enjoy. If you haven’t already, donate to our cause, volunteer to help out, get info about our current projects and put your heart and your muscle into Operation Pitch Invasion.