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Sounders unveil plans for new training facility, plans to ‘explore new brand identity’

Taken together, Sounders are plotting out their next 50 years as an organization.

Sounders FC / Generator Studios

RENTON, Wash. — Few professional sports teams in North America can match the Seattle Sounders’ success over the past 50 years. Since their founding in 1974 as a member of the NASL, the Sounders have missed the playoffs in just five of the 38 seasons in which they fielded a team, won six league titles, claimed 12 major trophies and been to 17 cup finals.

Now, they’re setting a vision for what promises to be an even more impressive second 50 years.

In the lead-up to their 50th anniversary in 2024, the Sounders formally unveiled plans for a new state-of-the-art training facility on Wednesday. The new training grounds will be located just across the freeway from Starfire Sports Complex in Renton at a property with a rich history. Sounders FC Center at Longacres will feature four full-sized training fields and allow the entire organization to be located at one facility for the first time since joining MLS.

In addition to the Sounders first-team, Tacoma Defiance and academy, the 50,000-square-foot facility will house the team’s business, front-office and sports science operations while also allowing ample opportunity for fans to watch players train. The facility will be designed by Generator Studio, the firm that designed the Kraken’s training facility and concepts for the Sounders’ stadium at Seattle Center.

“Today is one of the most important moments in our club’s history, as we begin this new partnership with Unico Properties and take our first steps into the future of Seattle Sounders FC,” Sounders Majority Owner Adrian Hanauer said in a team statement. “Our organization has invested a great deal of time and thoughtfulness into the process of both selecting the ideal site for a new home and reimagining what that home represents, for our team and the greater community.”

As part of a process they’ve dubbed “March to the 50th,” the Sounders also announced plans to “explore the club’s identity” in collaboration with fans, community members and just about anyone else who can plausibly be considered a stakeholder in the club. While part of that process could end up involving a redesigned crest or even a change to the Sounders’ entire visual brand, it is intended to be a more holistic review.

“From our club’s perspective, the next 50 years of Sounders history starts right now,” Sounders Owner & President of Business Operations Peter Tomozawa said in the statement. “Our club is and always will be what our fans say it is. That’s a core part of our club culture and is something we want to emphasize during this process. Fan input is critical to understanding who we are and what we stand for. As we take stock of those conversations, we believe this kind of dialogue will better inform all aspects of Sounders FC. This includes everything from how we represent our community to the team’s physical visual identity, including our marks and club crest.”

Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer Taylor Graham will spearhead that process with the help of three independent firms. DNA is a Seattle-based creative agency, Column is a Seattle-based design studio and Athletics is a New York City-based creative studio. The Sounders have previously worked with DNA and Column on other campaigns, while Athletics counts Nashville SC’s launch and the MLS redesign among its credits.

Despite all the expertise they’re enlisting, Graham insisted that the Sounders are coming into this with an open mind that could result in anything from a complete reimagining of the team’s visual identity to one that is barely changed. He stressed that fans will be who drive the outcome of the two-year process that starts now.

“This is a chance to embrace the past and storytell about what makes this club so unique for so many decades, but also codify that into our brand identity into ways that were not when we launched into Major League Soccer,” Graham told Sounder at Heart. “It was before we knew who we were. We now have a lot of years and amazing successes to evolve this. But this is not the club doing this, it will be driven by our fanbase and our community. This is a dialogue, this is an openness and a conversation, but we feel it’s the right one especially to have some uncomfortable conversations about our brand identity and specifically our visual brand identity.”