School Board Clears Way For Reign At Memorial Stadium

Dave Sizer (davesizer.com) via Creative Commons License

The team is expected to announce tomorrow a move of some or all of its 2014 schedule to the venerable Seattle Center stadium.

Tonight the Seattle School Board voted to approve making the changes the Seattle Reign needed to use Memorial Stadium as their facility for the upcoming season. With the successful vote it's expected that the Reign will play a majority or all of their home schedule at the venue in Seattle Center.

The Board wasn't voting explicitly to allow the Reign to play there, but on changes the Reign needed: specifically the freedom to make improvements to the locker rooms and the ability to contract directly with a concessionaire. You can read the gory details here. The team has scheduled an announcement for tomorrow, which is expected to be about the stadium move. They'd previously added language to their ticket purchase change hinting about a move and offering a refund to season ticket holders if it happens:

...please be aware that it is possible Reign FC will play some or all of its matches at an alternate venue. In the event matches are played in a venue other than Starfire Stadium, Reign FC will offer the option of a full refund to those individuals who purchased season tickets prior to the date of the venue change.

The move to Memorial would have some significant advantages. First and foremost, the downtown location would be much more convenient for Seattlites, especially in the heavily residential north of the city. The Seattle Center is well served by public transportation (including the monorail) and is already home to multiple festivals and the Seattle Storm at Key Arena. In the previous story we published after hints of the move came out, 81% of voters said they'd be more likely to catch a game at Memorial than Starfire. And a location so close to Seattle's iconic Space Needle couldn't do any harm in branding the team to other fans across the league.

The urban location also means that the neighborhood watering holes will be substantially better. Starfire was limited to pizza at the indoor food court and hot dogs at the single concession stand. Memorial provides scores of bars and restaurants in walking distance in Lower Queen Anne and Belltown, in an area well used to serving sports fans through the Storm (and in the recent past, Sonics and Thunderbirds) seasons.

And while the quality of the surface has been a concern, we've heard a lot of assurances that the new turf at Memorial is not worse than Starfire's and may actually be better. And the team has hinted (via pictures of Bob Ross, no less) that the football lines can be painted over for the Reign season.

That doesn't leave a lot of room for downsides. Obviously there will be some South Seattle (and probably Eastside) fans who found Tukwila more convenient, but the team is betting — and is almost certainly correct — that they gain more fans than they might lose. And I've heard the press box is a death-trap, but nobody cares about the press. There's also a dense festival schedule in the summer which could affect scheduling, but a festival that isn't using Memorial may end up leading to more ticket sales anyway. And the Reign were already contending with the concurrent Sounders Women schedule at Starfire.

The question remains whether this is a full season change or if the team will split time between the two facilities. Those are details I expect we'll get tomorrow. And it's likely that will be followed by the full NWSL schedule for all teams. In a tweet earlier in the week Thorns owner Merritt Paulson indicated the schedule would be out by the end of the week, and it's likely the question of the Reign's venue was what was holding it up.

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