The Seattle Sounders FC announced a new training facility, and head quarters, in Renton, Wash. this morning on the club’s website. This came a couple weeks after the club had alerted local media that there would be a major announcement on February 16th; which set off speculation by the fanbase.
This new facility will take advantage of the existing building that Boeing built at the former Longacres racetrack. While they’ll take over an existing building, the club will also be adding four practices pitches to the facility along with a viewing deck for fans to watch the training; this means that the access fans currently enjoy at the Starfire complex is planned to still be present at the new one. According to majority owner Adrian Hanauer, the project is called Sounders FC Center at Longacres.
It is expected that the renovation of the old Boeing building, along with the practice pitches, will be completed by 2024.
The club will be working with the property owner Unico Properties on the project for the Sounders; but also on future housing projects on the surrounding land. It’s a massive commitment by the Sounders to the region and is part of commitment to the area as Hanauer kept referring to the next “50 years” for the organization.
For the City of Renton, this marks the second professional sports team from Seattle to move its practice facilities and office space to the city. As the Seattle Seahawks moved to the suburb in 2007 when they built the Virginia Mason Athletic Center — that project was privately financed. It seems likely that the Sounders FC will be falling the same route with their new training facility.
After the press conference, the club officially conducted a ground breaking ceremony.
Seattle had leaked an early look at the proposed facilities façade in the evening of Feb. 15th.
From the messaging, it’s clear that the club is thinking long term with this investment and not just about Seattle’s bid for the 2026 World Cup; but also about the club’s long term future in the region. Which isn’t a surprise as this is an organization that came into existence right around the time the Sonics were ripped from the City’s sports scene and the Sounders FC leaderships has been very conscious of that fact — from fan engagement in the club’s naming process, to getting local celebrities involved as minority owners.
Seattle’s World Cup bid
This facility will, undoubtedly, also be part of the bid the Sounders have spearhead in order to bring World Cup matches to Seattle in 2026. While the United States, Mexico, and Canada have already won the bid to host the matches, the host cities have yet to be decided by FIFA or the cup’s organizers. Seattle is hoping that the fact that it now has a permanent outdoor venue, built with FIFA in mind, and with the already underway infrastructure improvements — i.e. light rail — that the organizers will select the Emerald City as one of the sites.
Seattle has nearly 15,000 hotel rooms with in the down town core, and King County has another 30,000+ in the surrounding burbs; most of those will be connected to the light rail network by the time the Cup were to come to town. On top of that, the Sounders success as only proved what the 1991 bid claimed; that this City has a strong soccer culture.
There are a couple of concerns with Lumen Field that could hold back the bid and both need to either be addressed by First & Goal (the operators of the stadium) before the stadium can truly be considered for a World Cup bid. In the past when Seattle has hosted FIFA matches, there has been sod laid on top of the field turf for their to be grass surface for those matches. And the results have been mixed. It would seem likely that there will have to be a installation of a permanent grass field after the women’s World Cup in Canada a few years ago (on field turf) was met with heavy criticism and a lawsuit.
Also of issue is the lack of dedicated soccer locker rooms as the Sounders FC use some of the locker rooms that were built for football — particularly the road football locker room — and other events the building was designed to host. This has been on the club’s wish list for a while now and it would seem likely that hosting the World Cup would be good enough reason for First & Goal to make this move.
But the biggest strength of Lumen Field is that it was designed with FIFA’s pitch dimensions in mind. Which is not something that can be said for New England’s Gillette Stadium or Nashville’s Nissan Stadium as both buildings would have to have seats removed to make room for FIFA’s pitch. The success of the previous international matches at Lumen Field, despite the pitch being sod, makes me think it’s likely Seattle will end up as one of the host sites for the 2026 World Cup.
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Photo Credit: Seattle Sounders FC