Portland State vs Montana State game amongst PSU fans. Eric Shelby/PSU Vanguard

The complex history of the Portland State Vikings’ home stadium

Why home games are 14 miles away from campus

The Portland State Vikings

The Portland State Vikings football team is a D-I program that plays in the football subdivision called the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). They compete in the Big Sky Conference with other schools like Eastern Washington and 2021 National Champion runner-up, Montana State.


The Viks began playing in 1947, a year after Portland State became a university. In 1958, they joined the NCAA College Division which is now known as Division II. The team has a total of eight conference championships, with two in the Oregon Collegiate Conference and six in the Western Football Conference. 


In their time at D-II, the Viks were successful as an independent program starting in 1981, appearing in the postseason eight times from 1987 to 1995 with a postseason record of 12-8. They made a championship run two years in a row in 1987 and 1988, being national runner-ups in both seasons. 


They joined Division I in 1996, in the Big Sky Conference. The Viks’ postseason as a D-I school has not treated them well. They lost to Northern Iowa in 2015, when they had an incredible season, beating Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams Washington State and University of North Texas. The Viks have struggled since then, going 26-43.

Cheerleaders with signs at PSU vs Montana State game. Eric Shelby/PSU Vanguard
Tyreese Shakir running out the tunnel. Eric Shelby/PSU Vanguard

Home Team History

The gridiron Viks host their home games at Hillsboro Stadium, 14 miles away from the Portland State campus. The Viks have called Hillsboro Stadium their home since 2018, ever since the renovation of Providence Park, which is now being used for the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer and the Thorns of National Women’s Soccer League. 


College football in Providence Park—which was known as Multnomah Stadium and Civic Stadium at the time—was a major sport being event. Not only did the Vikings call it home, but the University of Oregon and Oregon State hosted neutral site games there regularly. 


There have been seven Oregon-Oregon State rivalry games hosted at the stadium in the ‘50s through ‘70s. During the time it was called Civic Stadium, the Vikings under Head Coach Mouse Davis, known as the godfather of the run-and-shoot offense, made historic wins. With his unique offense style, Davis led the Viks to a 42-24 record over six seasons from 1975-1980. 


In 1980, Davis and the Viks scored a heavy seven touchdowns in just the first quarter against Delaware State in which they went on to win 105-0. In 2007, Providence Park also saw the highest-scoring college football game in D-I history, when Weber State beat the Viks in a 73-68 loss, with a combined total of 141 points. 


A Big Sky Conference team is expected to play a game at Providence Park next season, but it’s not our Vikings. Montana State will play Oregon State in September, due to the Beavers renovating the current stadium on their campus.

Darien Chase and Nate Bennett celebrate a touchdown. Eric Shelby/PSU Vanguard
Fans at Hillsboro Stadium in PSU vs Montana State game. Eric Shelby/PSU Vanguard

The Current Living Situation

The Viks made Hillsboro their official home in 2019, joining the softball and women’s soccer teams who already hosted their games there. With the rising popularity of soccer, scheduling conflicts arose between the Viks and Timbers. A year before the official move, the Viks played four of their five home games at Hillsboro because of the conflict. 


The Viks will see Hillsboro as their home for the foreseeable future, as there are no scheduling conflicts with major league teams. Part of the reason for the move from Providence Park was that it was hard to bring up attendance at the stadium—the D-I program usually brings in roughly 4,000 fans each home game.


Despite not having its own venue, PSU’s football program isn’t going anywhere, as it makes the most money out of all the sports at Portland State. The Viks get paid $500,000 each time they play non-conference games at the beginning of the season. 


For example, the Viks started out their 2021-22 season traveling to Hawai’i to play the Warriors, and next week will play the Washington State Cougars in Pullman. The Viks play San Jose State on Sept. 3 and University of Washington on Sept. 10. Even though both the Viks and Montana are in the Big Sky Conference, in 2021 during the pandemic, the Viks and Griz did not have a season so they agreed to play a single game together. Montana paid Portland State $36,000 to travel to Missoula and play them in a scrimmage-like game. 


Unfortunately, expenses are still a problem for the Viks. The Viks pay rent to each game they play at Providence Park. In 2014, they paid $17,500—and $32,000 in the 2018 season. The Viks only pay $12,500 to compete in Hillsboro Stadium which is better for the Viks who only grabbed 4,000 fans for a 21,000 stand venue. To keep the cost even lower, the Viks stopped having practice at Hillsboro Stadium on Fridays, which was costing $2,000 for travel to and from the stadium. 


Portland State isn’t the only school facing the problem of having no football stadium on campus. One of the most popular college football programs, UCLA, plays their games at the Rose Bowl, a 90,000 seat stadium in Pasadena. University of Connecticut plays their football games 23 miles away from their campus.

Parker McKenna making a stop against Cal Poly. Eric Shelby/PSU Vanguard
Fans at Hillsboro stadium at PSU vs Eastern Washington game. Eric Shelby/PSU Vanguard


Portland State has not been as lucky as schools like Georgia State. Based in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, what was once used for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, was turned into a baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team until 2016 when their lease was up. 


The 24,000 capacity stadium was not in use for a time until Georgia State bought it, turning the parking lot into student housing and academic space along with a stadium renovation. If only Portland State could find an open venue in downtown Portland to renovate, too.


Lincoln High School, a school in downtown Portland next to Providence Park, is renovating a new building, replacing their old building as well as working on a new football stadium. Athletic Director at the time Valerie Cleary set up an offer in a $65 million partnership with the school. The partnership would include an extra 6,500 seats to the original 1,500 to the stadium and a press box, and a couple of weight rooms as well as locker rooms. The Portland State administration wasn’t on board with helping supply the $65 million and told athletics that the money would have to come from private fundraising.


The second-to-last option for the Viks is to keep everything as it is and continue playing at Hillsboro Stadium because of cost. There is no problem with having a stadium off-campus, especially when the campus is on expensive ground in the downtown of a major city. 


The only thing Portland State needs to worry about is attendance and fan engagement. The Viks have a hard time bringing in fans to games, even in the Viking Pavilion, home to the basketball and volleyball teams. Portland State and Portland State Athletics feel like two different businesses that do not coexist well, and athletics like football—the largest money maker—is suffering.


Since the 2022 commencement will be hosted at Providence Park this year, it should not be hard to have the gridiron Viks host at least one game at the park next season, or the 2024 season. Oregon State and Montana State will host a collegiate football game for the first time in Providence since the Viks left so it’s not off the table for the Viks to host again, at least one game. 


It would be fitting for the Viks to host their last game of the season at Providence Park—on Senior Day or against a rival school like Eastern Washington University.