With Reign FC and the Tacoma Defiance now relocated there, and the Seattle Sounders recently announcing that they will be playing early-round US Open Cup games at Cheney Stadium for the foreseeable future, more and more fans have had questions about attending a soccer match in Tacoma. It’s a bit longer drive for fans coming from Seattle, but as someone who has attended many games there, I can say the trade-offs are well worth it. I’ve attempted to compile some of the more common questions into an FAQ of sorts to help make your first game day experience there more enjoyable.
Isn’t this a baseball stadium? I’ve heard about some bad experiences with Seattle teams playing in ballparks.
Yes, Cheney Stadium is the long-time home of the Tacoma Rainiers. However, unlike some baseball-turned-soccer situations (especially in the state of New York), Tacoma’s stadium crew has put a lot of thought into the field layout. The pitcher’s mound is removable, and a flat grass insert replaces it for soccer games. In addition, high-quality sod is overlaid on the entire infield and part of the warning track, and it is rolled flat to create what many outside observers consider to be the best soccer pitch in a baseball stadium in the country. The field, which measures 110×70 yards, matches exactly the dimensions of the intimate Starfire Stadium pitch and is wider than the pitch the Reign played on at Memorial Stadium.
What are the views like?
Although not perfect due to the seats being slightly angled for baseball, there aren’t any bad views in the stadium thanks to its relatively small size and the smart layout of the pitch. One thing to be aware of, in case of inclement weather, is that very few seats are under cover. On summer afternoons and evenings, that also means it could get very hot. Despite this, sound carries very well thanks to the bulk of the building being behind the seats, and you will still be heard loud and clear by the teams on the pitch. If you’re in the sideline seats, you’ll be further away from the action than you were at Starfire or Memorial Stadium, but the end-line seats are right on top of the action and finally put the supporters groups behind the goal. Additionally, the baseball safety netting remains up even during soccer games, so seats in the area behind what would be home plate have some netting between them and the field. You’ll get used to it very quickly.
If you need accessible accommodations or are accompanying someone with such needs, there are numerous designated seating areas throughout the stadium. Ramp access is from either end of the main concourse.
Where are the supporters groups located?
The home supporters stand directly behind the south goal (sections 124-126, in dark purple on this graphic). For games with a large contingent of away fans, the away supporters will be in section F in the upper corner of the stadium.
Are there any family-friendly sections?
There is no specifically designated family-friendly area in the stadium, but there is a large fenced-in playground behind the grass hill in right field, which is general admission. Parents can sit at the top of the hill and keep an eye on kids who are playing. At Defiance games, stadium personnel have also been a bit more aggressive in terms of policing things like language. If you’re used to the virtual free-for-all that partly defined the Starfire experience, this could be a rather significant change.
What’s the parking situation?
There’s ample parking in the lots surrounding Cheney Stadium. Be prepared to pay $10 cash upon entry, and much like at Starfire, expect long lines and delays exiting through the two narrow driveways post-match. For those who want to save a few dollars, there is some free street parking available on side streets north of S 19th Street, but be prepared for a long walk and you might need to cross some very busy streets with uncontrolled intersections. If you need to pick up tickets at will-call you should park in the south lot; if you already have your tickets or are buying them at the gate, there’s a north (left field) entrance where the line tends to move faster.
How can I get there by public transit?
Best of luck! If you can get yourself to downtown Tacoma (such as via Sound Transit route 594), you can connect to Pierce Transit route 2, which travels on S 19th Street and stops about 1/4 mile from the stadium. That route runs every 30 minutes with the last downtown-bound run passing Cheney Stadium at 10:50 pm on weeknights.
Reign FC also offers a charter bus from Northgate, downtown Seattle or Southcenter to Cheney Stadium for their home games.
Where can I get a drink before the game?
Sadly, there’s very little in the way of nightlife near the stadium where you can have a pre-match drink. However, tailgating is permitted in the parking lot (although you’re expected to pay for every spot you occupy), and there’s a Fred Meyer across the street if you need any supplies. Additionally, the stadium has numerous beer vendors and a wide assortment of micro and macro brews both on tap and in cans.
What can I bring into the stadium?
No outside food and drink is permitted the stadium. You will go through a bag search and metal detector on your way in. You are allowed to bring in an empty water bottle, which can be filled at any of the drinking fountains adjacent to the restrooms.
What’s available to eat and drink?
Unlike the extremely limited snack bar at Starfire, Cheney Stadium features a wide array of dining choices throughout the main concourse. Local favorites such as Kidd Valley and Ivar’s have a presence, along with pizza, chicken wings, BBQ, brats and plenty of the usual snack options. If the weather turns chilly, there’s also an espresso and hot cocoa stand.
Yes, but what about the beer?
On the beverage side there are several dedicated beer stands with an impressive selection of local craft brews, wine and cider, including a Seven Seas Brewing pavilion. Most of the food stands also offer beer and wine. Best of all, you can take your drink to your seat.
The R Bar (top level of the left field party decks) also offers liquor, but you’ll need to watch the game from that area while enjoying such beverages.
What’s the bathroom situation like?
There are several men’s, women’s and family restrooms in the stadium, all of which are modern and clean and have plenty of stalls.
What is the merchandise situation like?
There’s a large team store in the concourse which is shared by the Rainiers, Reign and Defiance. The store is open for every match and has a wide selection of merchandise for each club, along with some special items that aren’t available elsewhere. The Reign also have a secondary pop-up shop in the right field concourse for most of their home games. For USOC matches, Sounders merchandise will also be available.
Got any other questions? Ask them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.