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Where might Sounders play if they left Seattle?

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Continuing our series on the admittedly remote chance that the Sounders could leave CenturyLink Field, we now look at options outside of Seattle.

Well, it would have a view of the river!
Well, it would have a view of the river!

The Seattle Sounders may never build their own stadium. Frankly, this whole undertaking is mostly a speculative effort, based largely on a bit of conjecture on the part of Taylor Twellman. But in an effort to start the conversation and do our due diligence, we felt it was important to cast a reasonably wide net.

In Part 1 of this series, we gave a general overview of all the potential sites we'd be looking at. We also explained our criteria. You should probably read that before diving into this piece.

In Part 2, we focused on the four Seattle sites.

In Part 3, we're diving into the four sites we identified that aren't in Seattle. Two are in Bellevue and two are in Tukwila. Part 4, which will run tomorrow, will focus on the pluses and minuses of CenturyLink Field.

Bellevue

I can almost hear the gnashing of teeth from my urban-dwelling friends as I type this. Bellevue?! BELLEVUE?! You're going to put a stadium in the f*&^ing suburbs?! Easy, cowboys and cowgirls. I'm not suggesting that they should put the stadium in Bellevue (or Tukwila, for that matter). However, if the club were looking to move, they'd be stupid to not at least consider the suburbs as an option. It's likely that cities like Bellevue, Renton and Tukwila would probably provide less opposition to a new stadium than Seattle, though just how much is up for debate. Just look at how arduous the Sonics Arena issue has been, and then remember that the thing isn't even close to completion! Anyway - the Club would likely consider it, and in the interest of examining all of the options, I considered it too.

Before I begin - all locations of future East Link sites are approximate, but they're close enough for this purpose.

bellevue sites

Site 1

Location: Bound by NE 8th St, 120th Ave NE, NE 1st St, and Railroad tracks.

Area: Approximately 31 Acres

This site is really interesting. NE 8th is a huge arterial and could probably handle the traffic, with some minor revisions to allow left turns. There is also direct access from the SE 8th exit, just to the south of the site. If you're looking to build a stadium that would best accommodate vehicular traffic, you could do a lot worse. As you can see, there is also a future light rail station directly to the north of the site. As if I wouldn't mention this! Again, as I've said ad nauseum already, this will provide access from all over the region, without requiring a car at the final destination. It's a massive plus.

Someone left a comment on one of the previous articles about the City of Bellevue potentially running a new road through the site to provide better access to existing businesses. I don't see this as a great deterrent; if the Club were adamant about it, they could theoretically just pay the City for the right of way as part of the land acquisition process. It certainly adds another layer of complexity, but nothing that would prevent the site from working if they really wanted to make it happen. (Again, we've used Sunderland's Stadium of Light as a rough stand-in on these graphics, as it's roughly the size of a potential Sounders stadium. Credit to Devlin Rose for producing these.)

bellevue1

Site 2

Location: Bound by NE 20th St/Northup Way, 130th Ave NE, NE 12th/Bel-Red Rd, and Railroad tracks.

Area: Approximately... really big.

Site 2 is really similar as far as access to Site 1 so I won't go into it. The benefit of this area is that it's freaking huge. There are tons of possible alignments here, and I'm certain a stadium could be located within these bounds without much fuss. Also, there's probably room to go further east, and there are light rail stops on both ends. Bonus.

It sounds like Sound Transit has bought up a bunch of this property in advance of running East Link through here, which would be an issue. There is also a Transit Oriented Development going in between 124th Ave NE and 120th Ave NE, which would force any development to happen east of 124th, and would probably kill this site as an option. I suppose it could be located east of 130th, but I don't know if these new neighbors would be amenable to that, either.

bellevue2

Aside from what I've already discussed, the main issue here is that broadly speaking, there isn't much to do around these two sites, unless you need to go to the hospital or buy your groceries at Whole Foods. I would think that this area could become something akin to LA Live around Staples Center, where the Club vacuums up a bunch of land and makes going to the Stadium a real experience, with space for bars and restaurants and parking and anything else they'd want to build. I'm not sure if they'd want to invest in that, but I wouldn't be surprised to see such a venture succeed massively if they decided to do it. It may not be what we have in Pioneer Square, but it wouldn't be what exists in Frisco or Carson or Kansas City, either. In fact, I think people are a little too quick to dismiss this idea simply because these sites are not in the City. I can see why this feeling prevails, but I think it ignores Bellevue's up and coming status as a real second city in King County.

I know a lot of people aren't hot on the idea of a suburban stadium, and I know a lot of people shudder at the mere mention of Bellevue. Broadly, I agree. But if you consider these sites objectively, on their merits, I think there is a lot of potential here. In reality, probably a lot more potential than anyone realizes.

Tukwila

tukwila sites

Site 1

Location: Bound by the Duwamish River, I5, and 599

Area: Approximately 87 Acres

tukwila1

Site 2

Location: Bound by the Duwamish River, Link Light Rail/E Marginal Way, 599 and Tukwila International Blvd

Area: Approximately 27.5 Acres

tukwila2

Let's get this out of the way - both of these sites are huge, would provide ample room for development, and could support both a stadium and parking on-site. Site 1 could reasonably accommodate the type of LA Live-type investment I just talked about, while Site 2 probably could not. Both of these sites provide great vehicular access, with 599 and I5 both close. They're also both close to Starfire; I'm not sure if this matters or not, but I would guess that it couldn't hurt.

The main issue here is transit. Well, that and that it's in Tukwila, but I digress. There are already lots of complaints from Sounders fans about how difficult it is to get to Starfire without driving, and I don't see this getting any better, with one exception. Both of these sites are either near or directly adjacent to the existing Light Rail line. It's not much of a stretch to imagine the Club putting up some funding for the construction of an additional stop to serve a potential Stadium. This would be much easier at Site 2, where the Light Rail actually intersects with its eastern edge. Site 1 is trickier, because of the Light Rail's proximity to 599, but if there was a will to do it, I'm sure they could figure it out. This of course assumes that ST would want to play ball, and that this could be easily accomplished. I am dubious about both, but like I have said all along, if the Club wanted to make it happen badly enough, I'm sure they could find a way. I wouldn't exactly say it's likely, but it's not impossible, either.

These sites are interesting, but are antithetical to my main requirement, which is that they be served by a current or proposed Light Rail station. Now, as I said, that could happen if the stars align properly, but even then, I'm not sold on it. Tukwila just isn't a particularly desirable place to put a stadium, and there isn't much going on in the vicinity of either of these sites as it stands. As far as I'm concerned, these sites are definitely at the bottom of the list.