So much for the rumor that Adrian Hanauer was maneuvering to build the Sounders a soccer-specific stadium.
The Sounders and First & Goal Inc., the name for the Seahawks’ business operations, said Monday they have agreed to a 10-year extension of their existing CenturyLink Field agreement through the 2028 Major League Soccer season — the end of First & Goal’s 30-year lease with the state-owned facility.
The main reason the Sounders would consider forsaking their nearly ideal set-up and home since 2009 at the edge of downtown Seattle was to have their own pitch made of grass. The current turf field preferred by the other main tenant, the Seahawks, is in its fourth year and the source of complaints by soccer players about its poor condition.
As a matter of principle, soccer purists have always hated turf because of wear on legs as well as impact on ball speed and bounce.
When Hanauer, a minority owner, turned over his GM job to Garth Lagerwey, speculation was almost immediate that Hanauer would devote some time to exploring the possibility of the club’s own joint, especially after separating business operations from the Seahawks, who helped the franchise become a huge business success.
Apparently, the urban location, particularly compared to the dubious suburban locations of some soccer-specific locations in MLS, trumped the turf nuisance. Plus, the Sounders were unlikely to find any nearby municipal government willing to underwrite some of the expense of building a stadium that could justify a footprint for at least 40,000 seats.
Presumably, the Sounders reached some accommodation regarding maintenance and replacement. The previous fake grass had a three-year tenure, and the Sounders lobbied unsuccessfully to end at three years the current rag, er, rug. No mention of terms was made in the announcement.
“The organization and its fan base have set an unprecedented standard for soccer support in North America, culminating in the top six single-season attendance totals in league history and an active streak of 109 consecutive MLS sellouts,” the release quoted majority owner Joe Roth as saying.
The Sounders over the past three seasons have had a home average of more than 43,000 fans, more than double the No. 2 MLS team, the Los Angeles Galaxy. The club finished the 2014 campaign 27th in global average attendance among the world’s top-tier professional clubs (43,734).
To meet demand, MLS capacity was increased to 39,115 this season from 38,300 by expanding to a midfield area on the east side’s 300 level.
The $430 million stadium was authorized by a statewide public vote in 1997 and opened in 2002, using $300 million in public funds to help build the stadium and the adjacent 200,000-square-foot events center.