SEATTLE —The idea has always seemed far-fetched, but there has long been speculation and even the occasional media report that the Seattle Sounders might someday look to move into their own stadium.
But the idea of a soccer-specific stadium in Seattle can now be put to rest for quite a while, because the Sounders and First &Goal Inc. announced a 10-year lease extension, meaning CenturyLink Field will be the Sounders’ home through at 2028 season, which is also the final year of the Seahawks’ current lease at the stadium.
Sure, having their own facility might be appealing to the Sounders, both because they wouldn’t have to deal with scheduling issues in a shared facility, and also because the Sounders would prefer to play on natural grass. The Seahawks installed FieldTurf when the stadium opened and have no interest in replacing it with grass.
But because the Sounders have been so wildly successful — they drew 43,734 fans per game last season — following the Major League Soccer business model of building a small, soccer-specific stadium would make little sense for the Sounders. And building a stadium to meet their potential growth isn’t financially feasible.
“Look, every sporting franchise on the planet dreams of their own facility, and we’re not different, but the little bits we poked around over the years made us realize that, first off, from a location and amenities standpoint, CenturyLink Field is where we want to be. And secondly, building whatever size stadium we might decide — and thank goodness we didn’t build a 20,000-seat stadium in the suburbs seven years ago — just the cost of a stadium was going to be too much to overcome,” Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said. “We didn’t want to go to the public looking for money.
“And we think we can continue to grow into CenturyLink. We think if we run our business right, we can average 50,000 or 55,000 fans a game, and eventually have 67,000 fans at each game, so the idea that it somehow made sense to build another stadium that holds 50,000 that’s expandable to 65,000 just defied logic to a large degree. Don’t get me wrong, we’d love to have a grass field, but spending $500-700 million just to have a grass field just doesn’t make sense.
So while Monday’s extension of the lease agreement ensures that the Sounders won’t be seeking a new stadium anytime soon, or getting to play on grass, the new lease does include provisions to replace the FieldTurf playing surface at least every four years, and possibly more frequently, Hanauer said, starting with next season. This is Seattle’s fourth season playing on the existing field, which was installed after the 2011 football season. Because newer FieldTurf plays more like grass, the Sounders would have preferred to replace the field more frequently, but as Hanauer put it, “you get some things you want, you give some things you want.”
The Seahawks, meanwhile, like playing on the matted down older turf because it is a faster surface.
Hanauer said the new lease also includes “a commitment to continue to invest in and research technologies for maintaining and servicing the turf, and managing it in a way that helps to maintain it at a higher level for soccer.”
Also included in the new lease, Hanauer said, are provisions to make scheduling easier for the Sounders, particularly when late-season conflicts come up when the MLS and NFL seasons overlap.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org