The upcoming season will bring with it some significant changes to General Admission seating in sections 121, 122, and 123 at CenturyLink Field. On Friday, the Seattle Sounders announced that all individuals with tickets in the GA sections will receive a wristband upon entry, with the aim of eliminating overcrowding in the section - and in the case of many high-demand games, legitimate ticket holders being turned away from the section entirely. GA ticket-holders will also be required to use the Convention Center entrance at the south end of the stadium. These policies will take effect beginning with the Sounders' first home game on March 8 (or, you know, whenever) and will be gradually tightened over the course of the first several weeks of the season.
A forum post from Emerald City Supporters' leadership gave further detail about the new policy, noting that while wristbands will be available at all entrances for the first home match of the season, this will be discontinued at some point, though the timing is currently unclear. Though the Convention Center entrance will eventually be the only gate at which GA wristbands will be available, it appears as though this entrance will remain open to ticket holders in other sections as well. Additionally, individuals with assigned seating in the upper portions of sections 121-123 will not be affected by this change.
As with any significant change in policy, there are drawbacks to the new approach; while the Convention Center entrance is the closest to the GA that doesn't mean that it is the preferred or most convenient for all ticket-holders in those sections, which will likely require some to alter their matchday routines. And though keeping a wristband attached to one's person doesn't seem to be the most arduous of tasks, it's almost inevitable that a few will be misplaced at every game. What seems to be the biggest concern by some margin has less to do with the policy itself and everything to do with fears that hiccups in the process early on could cause major headaches; if there are any significant delays attributed to the distribution of wrist bands, a policy that seems to have been generally accepted as necessary, could become quite unpopular - especially given that the club's enhanced security policies introduced in 2013 still don't seem to have all of the kinks ironed out.
But in comparison to the problem this policy change was introduced to address, those tradeoffs are all more than acceptable. Overcrowding in GA has been a problem for years now, and has only worsened as demand has continued to grow. Over the years people have come up with any number of "workarounds" to ticket screening upon entry to the sections, and given the number of ushers available and somewhat chaotic nature of the section, it's nearly impossible to police. It has become commonplace to see supporters three-deep in front of each seat, and at the most highly-anticipated matches legitimate GA ticket-holders have been turned away from the section. (Full discolure: it's happened to me several times.) Wristbands and dedicated entrances certainly aren't without their drawbacks, but its hard to imagine a less restrictive policy that wouldn't be doomed to failure.
These changes along with the front-office's crackdown on ticket brokers and the secondary market are likely to have a pretty significant impact on the environment in the GA section, and it's almost certainly going to be a positive one. While the number of seats in those three sections is only a small portion of those in the stadium, the problems that the front office is attempting to solve have been major headaches for several years and it's good to see action being taken. No policy is foolproof and there's little doubt people will find a way around this one, and it's unfortunate that the dedicated entrance is an inconvenience to some. But assuming the club has a solid plan in place to ensure that this policy is introduced smoothly, it's hard to see this as anything but a positive change for the vast majority of those affected.