Scoring Big on Benefits
Even Kathy’s dog wears Portland Timbers attire.
Kathy Jennings, Vice President of Finance and Administration for the Timbers Football Club, wasn’t really a soccer fan when she was hired five years ago. But today? “Oh, I’m totally a soccer snob now,” she said.
We Are the Rose City
The national clubs — the men’s Portland Timbers and women’s Portland Thorns — have become iconic, even obsessive, elements of Portland culture.
Die-hard enthusiasm doesn’t end on the field. Big soccer is big business. Owned by Peregrine Sports and under the direction of President Merritt Paulson, the Timbers FC organization employs more than 200 part-time and nearly 100 full-time staff members. And according to a 2013 Forbes article on the most valuable MLS teams based on profit, the Timbers rank third of 19 teams nationwide.
Before a sold-out crowd of 18,627, the Portland Timbers defeated the Chicago Fire in their MLS debut game in 2011.
“Working here, the staff is a part of the Timbers teams,” says Kathy. “And that team attitude translates to our partners too. BCI is an active member of the team and a pleasure to work with.”
And when it came to negotiating employee benefits? BCI scored. Big.
“We saved money on our bottom line and provided our employees with more,” Kathy says. “Since launching our BCI partnership, our employees are getting nothing but good news about their benefits.”
A Team – On and Off the Field
It takes dedicated staff to build such an enterprise. Employees of the football club are energetic, hard workers, often putting in time on nights and weekends, Kathy says.
“Our staff spends so much time here that it’s important to provide them, and their families, with exceptional benefits,” says Kathy, who works with BCI Group for benefits.
Recommended by a mutual contact, BCI Group and the Timbers recently became partners in 2014. Also new to the team is Nancy Garcia Ford, Director of Human Resources for the Timbers Football Club. Nancy said BCI Group has certainly made her transition easier – being a helpful resource for staff members and bringing an array of services.
The first year on the job for the Timbers, BCI Group streamlined the benefit search and selection process and negotiated competitive rates.
At the first home game played in the new stadium and at the team’s Major League Soccer (MLS) debut, Kathy sat right next to the Timbers Army, the self-titled group of the most dedicated, die-hard fans. There, in the pouring rain with her husband and children, she cheered the team to victory.
The Timbers have sold out every home game to date since being promoted to an MLS franchise in 2011. And fandom for the Thorns is just as acute, regularly setting attendance records among the nine-team professional National Women’s Soccer League.
Nationally, average attendance at MLS games has surpassed those for the NBA and NHL. Portland has become a soccer town, filled with axe-wielding fans on billboards sporting scarves. Fans wearing Timbers jerseys emblazoned with the Alaska Airlines sponsor logo even get early boarding rights on Alaska Air flights.
“A job in finance is not always the most glamorous thing, so it’s amazing to work in an environment as lively and fun as the Timbers,” says Kathy.
Many staff either work during games or come to them after work. From the office cubicles above the suite levels, they can see the field. They may not be in the thick of the flag waving and the celebratory smoke bombs after goals, but many are sporting the soccer scarf all day long – including Kathy and her dog.
“I can tell you, there’s nothing like a stadium on game day,” she says.
The Portland Thorns, established in 2013, ran straight to the top and won the first ever National Women’s Soccer League championship.