At least once a year, we try to sit down with Seattle Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer to basically get a state of the franchise. This year’s interview comes at a particularly interesting time, as the Sounders are embroiled in a rough season both on and off the field.
Our interview last Thursday was mostly focused on off-the-field issues, but we opened with the idea that the Sounders’ place among the elite’s is being questioned.
“I’m sort of a slow and steady guy,” Hanauer said. “I like consistency over a yo-yo. If you can make the playoffs and host one or two games, you’re going to win some trophies.”
“If it gets to the point where I’m an owner who can’t put the Sounders in position to win championships, I’m going to find an owner, a set of owners who can do that. This is a passion of mine, this is my community. I want this to be fun and meaningful and important for our community and I get that winning is a piece of that.”
The whole interview is just about an hour long. Here are some of the other highlights:
11th minute: It sounds like there might be a way for MLS to avoid playing any matches on international dates through a combination of more weekday games and more efficient scheduling.
“I don’t think we spend enough time on schedule and I think that’s something that needs to change,” he said, raising his hand as someone on the competition committee. “This is something that is a massive issue for us and is solvable.
“We have to get to a place where we’re not playing on international dates.”
17th minute: Hanauer addresses attendance and the reality that there are seemingly more empty seats than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. In addition to adding value to season tickets through a variety of means, he also thinks there’s a “huge opportunity” in group sales. He also acknowledges that things like increased security have made attending games harder.
“At times we’ve increased friction with parking and security, but are there things we can do through technology and more one-to-one relationships that make it more inviting for our guests.”
25th minute: Asked about the updates on the potential of the World Cup coming to Seattle in 2026, he seems confident and says the surface at CenturyLink Field is a “non-issue.” He says the Seahawks have been very willing partners in the bid and that fans will likely see some improvements in the gameday experience as a result.
“It will feel more like a Sounders stadium during Sounders games.”
33rd minute: The long teased new training facility is still a ways off from being something they can announce, but he did note that he just had a meeting and that they’ve narrowed down the search to “four or five” possible locations.
“We’re making progress. Actually, had a three-hour meeting yesterday and we were presented with six or seven different sites — including Starfire — and of those one or two are probably unrealistic.
“We love Starfire, but this is a $30-60 million decision and I’d rather take our time to get it right.”
38th minute: One of the areas that will be impacted by the new training facility is the academy, which led us into talking about the Defiance.
“Obviously we’d like to win more with the Defiance. One thing I’m proud of is that we’ve committed to something and we’ve followed through. This team is about developing players. It’s tough on fans, it’s tough on the psyche of some of the players and organizationally we’re used to winning, but it has to be about developing players.”
45th minute: We closed out the interview talking about the controversy around the Iron Front flag. The day before MLS had met with ECS, Gorilla FC and other supporters groups and had promised a decision about the flag by this coming Tuesday.
As much headache as the situation has caused, Hanauer said he’s actually found the process to be valuable and seemed to suggest that he was in favor of seeing the rules loosened.
“This concept of trying to have our stadiums free of politics makes sense,” he said. “But I’m also perfectly aware that this isn’t reality, there are politics in almost everything we do.
“It’s fair to say the fan code of conduct arbitrarily chose certain symbols and is an area ripe for refinement if not outright changing. Developing the fan code of conduct should have been a more collaborative effort. We’re stewards of these franchises for our communities, our fans are our business and we need to always be doing right by our fans and listening to them.”
This week’s music: Perry Como - “Seattle”, ”RVIVR - ”Ocean Song”, Woody Guthrie - “Roll On Columbia”, ”Your Journey Begins” - OurMusicBox (Jay Man) (CC BY 4.0)
Thanks to James Woollard, Sounders Public Address Announcer, for doing our sponsor reads. You can follow him on Twitter at @BritVoxUS - if you’re looking for a British Voice to advertise your business or non-profit, please reach out to him.