The Seattle Reign could be playing their games a lot closer to their target demographic in 2014. According to a Seattle School Board document, the Reign are exploring the possibility of moving to Memorial Stadium as soon as this season. The Reign had no comment, only saying that they still had not finalized a home stadium for the upcoming season. They were quoted, however, by Soccerwire.com saying that they were still exploring possibilities.
The Reign played their first season at Stafire Sports Complex in Tukwila. While the field and stadium were considered to be among the best in the league, the relatively remote location was often cited as a major reason that more Seattle-based fans did not attend games. The Reign's average attendance of 2,290 ranked in the lower half among NWSL teams and the facility is emblazoned with Sounders FC and Sounders Women advertisements, making it obvious that the Reign were merely tenants.
The school board documents suggest that the Reign are seeking the ability to make various upgrades to Memorial, specifically to one of the locker rooms which would bring it to more of a professional standard. They are also hoping to contract directly with the concessionaire.
A move to Memorial Stadium would likely be seen as a massive upgrade in terms of location. The 67-year-old stadium is located near the corners of Mercer and Fifth Avenue North in Seattle Center and is easily accessible through public transit. The downside is that parking would be a bit more expensive.
The stadium's owner is the Seattle School Board and it is primarily used for high school football. Although there are currently football markings, the Reign's regular season ends in mid-August and would only overlap during the playoffs. As such, it's entirely possible that the football markings could be painted over during the Reign's season.
As for the rest of the facilities, it's definitely an old stadium. The scoreboard is hardly up to professional standards and the seating is about what you'd expect in a stadium built right after World War II. The good news is that new FieldTurf was recently installed, meaning it won't be nearly as bad as most Seattleites probably remember. From the look of the documents, the Reign could very well be planning further upgrades as well. The current capacity is 12,000, although as many as 17,000 have packed the stadium for some soccer matches.
Playing at Memorial would also mark a return of soccer to its original Seattle home. The NASL Sounders played their first couple seasons there (averaging about 15,000 fans per game in 1975-76) before moving to the Kingdome, as did the USL Sounders (where they averaged anywhere from 6,347 in 1994 to 1,885 in 2001) before moving to Seahawks Stadium and then to Starfire. Among the more memorable moments at the stadium were the A-League Sounders winning the 1995 and 1996 titles.