CenturyLink Field will be getting new turf before the 2016 MLS season. That's at least a year longer than just about anyone involved with the Seattle Sounders would have preferred, but a new lease at least guarantees that the CenturyLink Field playing surface will never be any older than it will be this year.
Along with giving the Sounders' a home through at least 2028, the language formalizing the maximum age of the turf is probably the most notable element of the 10-year extension. The Seahawks' lease, coincidentally, runs out the same year.
"I think it's a workable solution," Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer told Sounder at Heart. "I'd be lying if I said we didn't prefer [the turf] to be replaced more often -- and there's still that chance if both organizations agree -- but in any negotiation, you win some and you lose some. In the scope of the whole agreement, we think it's a good agreement for the Sounders."
Even though the timing wasn't ideal, Hanauer insisted the Sounders and Seahawks were both committed to finding ways to better preserve the turf and to extend its life.
"This season will be as bad as it gets," he said. "When we replace it next time, given some runway to get some new technology and processes in place, it will be better after three years next time."
While Hanauer has acknowledged that the current state of the field is not ideal, he was also quick to point out that the Sounders' playing surface has not proven to be any kind of competitive disadvantage.
"It's a big deal in that our players would prefer to play on grass, but we've never had a player tell us he doesn't want to come to Seattle because we don't have grass," he said. "They have preferred grass, but it has never hindered us from getting a player. We train on grass every day. The league approved this deal. So they're OK with synthetic. More broadly, fields in general are still an issue in our league and it's not just synthetic. We play on some grass fields where our players would have preferred to play on synthetic. That doesn't mean we're happy to play on synthetic, but there are grass fields that on occasion aren't great fields."
In addition to clarifying the turf replacement schedule, the Sounders also got language in the lease that would make it easier to get desired dates.
But this lease extension was really about even bigger issues. There are few professional sports venues in the entire country with a better location than CenturyLink, and the Sounders were hardly keen on finding a new home.
"This franchise is intended for generations and generations in our community and it seems like it was important to secure our location," Hanauer said. "One thing I really believe is we still have growth in us. Averaging 45,000 a year, growing is pushing toward 50,000. The only way to get to 50,000 is to have a stadium that can hold 60,000-70,000.
"We have the perfect stadium in the perfect location, albeit with not a grass field, but spending $500 million to build something with a grass field just doesn't seem rational. And by the way, isn't a good business decision, and by the way, neither [majority owner Joe Roth] nor I wanted to ask the public for $500 million so we could have grass."