Just as the Mariners have their AAA affiliate in Tacoma, so too might the Seattle Sounders have their minor-league team — right next to Cheney Stadium. Plans for a 5,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium for the S2 United Soccer League franchise were announced Monday by the Sounders and the Tacoma Rainiers. The estimated opening is 2020.
A memorandum of understanding was reached for the stadium to be co-managed by the franchises. The Rainiers would manage business operations and the Sounders would control the sport and infrastructure. The architectural firm Populous, which is working with Oak View Group in a bid to remodel Seattle KeyArena, has been hired.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be moving forward with the Tacoma Rainiers and City of Tacoma, progressing toward construction of a soccer-specific stadium,” said Sounders FC owner Adrian Hanauer in a release. “Our vision of having players begin their time with the club playing at Starfire with the academy, then move up to the USL team with matches in Tacoma, before finally getting the call-up to the first team at CenturyLink Field — all while playing within the Puget Sound region — really reinforces our commitment to bringing quality soccer to the communities of Western Washington.”
The partnership is said to be the first of its kind for the second-tier USL, which S2, founded in 2014, joined in 2015. The partnership will seek a new name that is representative of its new home.
The city owns the land around the stadium, but no information about costs or funding the project was made available, nor was the location specified. Cheney Stadium is adjacent to Foss High School in central Tacoma.
“This is the art of the possible,” Rainiers president Aaron Artman said. “What can we create, with our community and our partners, that adds to Tacoma’s current trajectory? Now that both parties have agreed on a structure to move forward . . . it gives us the ability to work together to try to deliver a first-class stadium experience.”
Mikal Thomsen, Rainiers owner and CEO, said, “We’ve seen what a great sports market Tacoma can be in the seven years we’ve owned the Rainiers. Now, in partnership with an incredible organization like the Sounders, we get an opportunity to bring another great franchise, and sport, to the South Sound.”
The Sounders operations will remain at Starfire Sports training ground in Tukwila for the first team, S2 and academy.