Could the Seattle Sounders’ future be at Memorial Stadium? That appears to be at least a possibility — albeit one far off in the future — after the discovery of some old renderings on Tuesday that show how a soccer stadium might fit onto the footprint of the Sounders’ original home. (The posting has since been removed.)
It should probably be noted that the Sounders have another 10 years remaining on their lease with CenturyLink Field and don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. But these renderings aren’t just some fever dream of soccer fans hoping to have their own stadium someday.
The designs were created by Generator Studio, presumably at the behest of the Sounders. This is the same firm who has been hired to design the new Seattle NHL franchise’s practice facility at Northgate Mall. The Kansas City-based firm also designed the Seahawks’ VMAC training facility in Renton. Add to the mix that Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer recently joined the NHL team’s ownership group — who will likely carry a lot of influence over the future of Seattle Center — and it’s not hard to start connecting dots.
Based on the best information available, though, the discovery of these renderings is not an indication of any new movement. Although the site was first indexed by Google in May 2017, the renderings appear to be from 2014. That was around the same time Garth Lagerwey was hired as the team’s GM and the last time there were anything like serious rumors that the Sounders were exploring the possibility of building their own stadium. Sounder at Heart even did a whole series of stories exploring potential sites, which ironically dismissed the Memorial Stadium site as too small. That was also when the Sounders were negotiating their lease extension.
This concept suggests the site could fit a stadium that would accommodate as many as 40,000 spectators. It also proposes the possibility of the stadium being built as small as 22,000 seats before expanding, while incorporating the existing southern stands into the design.
The proposed concept reacts to its surroundings, with an open design that integrates the surrounding park and practice fields via an exterior park ramp that circles the stadium, landing at the main concourse. The stadium is anchored by a large flag pole / mast, hearkening to Seattle’s maritime history and culture. Locations of seating decks strategically capitalize on views to the Space Needle and other views of the surroundings. A transparent roof is envisioned that could be laced with solar panels, reducing the stadium’s carbon footprint, and continuing the goals established in Seattle’s Century 21 Master Plan.
It’s hard to imagine the Sounders actually opening a stadium with as few as 22,000 seats — given that their existing season-ticket base is nearly twice that big — but at 40,000 seats it would immediately become the largest soccer-specific stadium in the United States and one of the 10 largest in North America.
Something like this would almost certainly cost at least $250 million to $400 million to build, but it would allow the Sounders to have a level of control over their facility that they currently lack. As it is, they don’t have naming rights to the stadium, aren’t able to sell advertising on any of the non-digital boards throughout the facility, don’t have a permanent home locker room, are often forced to move games when other events take precedence — such as on Monday — and a host of other smaller frustrations. This would also likely allow the Sounders to play on grass and maybe even provide a suitable longterm home for the Seattle Reign.
At the very least, this gives us some sort of idea of what the Sounders see for themselves in the future.