Putting a USL-Pro franchise in Tacoma makes sense from so many levels for the Seattle Sounders. The biggest hangup, it seems, is having an appropriate place to play. Although Sunday's Reserve League match against Orlando City will be played at the Tacoma Rainiers' Cheney Stadium, there are obvious concerns about how that might work in the long term.
Now comes word directly from Rainiers ownership that, if all goes well, they'd at least be willing to explore the possibility of building a soccer-specific stadium with the idea of housing a Sounders-affiliated team.
"I think we're interested at a high level regardless, whether that was a Cheney, whether that was figuring out some kind of model to do a soccer-specific stadium somewhere in the area," Rainiers owner Aaron Artman told the Tacoma News-Tribune. "We think the world of the way those guys operate from a business and fan perspective and to partner with them I think would always be something we would have an open mind about."
As recently as a few years ago, the idea of building a stadium specifically for minor-league soccer would have seemed kinda crazy. But a lot has changed, as the soccer-stadium building boom has trickled down in a major way.
The San Antonio Scorpions opened Toyota Park this season, the Carolina Railhawks just renovated WakeMed Park and two other NASL teams play in soccer-specific stadiums. The USL-Pro also has a handful of soccer-specific stadium, the most notable of which is probably the Pittsburgh Riverhounds' HighMark Stadium. That 3,500-seat facility was finished this season for a cost of about $10 million and would serve as a good framework for a Tacoma USL-Pro team.
Construction of the facility took about nine months to complete, which would likely necessitate most of one season to be played at an alternate facility. I would assume that a combination of Starfire Sports Complex and Cheney Stadium could be used for that.
At the very least, it's encouraging to see that Rainiers ownership is serious enough to consider such an option.