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Sounders continue to explore building stadium at Longacres

Lease at Lumen Field expires after 2032 season.

Last Updated
3 min read
Maddy Grassy / Sounders FC Communications

It is almost a given that virtually ever professional sports team in the world would prefer to control their own stadium. There are the rather obvious reasons like being able to control how the stadium looks and feels to the less obvious stuff like scheduling priority. But really, it’s about revenue streams.

When a team controls its stadium, they control everything from advertising inventory to concessions. The days when MLS teams can be competitive just based on gameday ticketing revenue are long gone. Now that New York City FC appear to be on their way to having their own stadium, that leaves the Sounders as just one of three current teams who are not at least majority-owned by the entity that controls their home field.

Last year, it was revealed that the Sounders were exploring the possibility of building their own stadium on the 160-acre parcel of land that is colloquially known as “Longacres” and where their new training facility is now located.

In an exclusive interview with Sounder at Heart, majority owner Adrian Hanauer cast a bit more light on the status of those efforts.

“There are a couple 10-acre parcels that would fit a stadium,” Hanauer said. “We start there in that in the 23 years I’ve been associated with the team, we’ve never been in the midst of a real-estate partnership that has the potential for the size of land necessary to build a stadium.”

While it’s unlikely the Sounders would build a stadium comparable in size to the 70,000-seat Lumen Field, the size of the lot apparently doesn’t constrain them and he insisted that they equally aren’t committed to building something closer to 20,000.

What also can’t be replicated at Longacres is the kind of multi-modal accessibility that Lumen Field can boast. The downtown-adjacent stadium is connected to the rest of the region by dozens of bus lines, an expanding light rail system and even heavy rail, in addition to being one of the most walkable and bikeable stadiums in all of North America.

But it’s also important to keep in mind that the entire area around Longacres could be transformed in the next decade or so. When Unico bought the property two years ago, they also unveiled plans to eventually build 3,000 apartments and turn, in the words of The Urbanist, the “awkward, mostly abandoned light industrial office park to a dense mixed-use neighborhood.”

Hanauer expanded a bit on that vision.

“I’m certain if we build a stadium here that some fans wouldn’t like it and that it’s more inconvenient,” he said. “But it would be ours. It would be soccer-focused, intimate. It would allow the club to generate more revenue, which plays into spending money on players. It becomes a home for our fanbase. It’s connected to this facility. There are a lot of logistical benefits. There’s a train station 100 yards away. The ingress and egress is actually quite good. There are a lot of positives, but we will do a lot of research and talking to our fans to understand what the reaction would be to that.”

Playing a significant role in all of this is the Sounders’ lease at Lumen Field, which runs through the 2032 season, the same as the Seahawks’. Hanauer admitted that on some level, the Longacres planning is a hedge against the unknown that brings. But even if a new lease can be worked out, there are still issues that may never be resolved. Will the Sounders — let alone the Reign — ever have a dedicated locker room? Can ad spaces be retrofitted to allow for more customization? Is grass even a possibility?

Hanauer couldn’t give a definitive answer, but stopped well short of openly campaigning for any improvements.

“Have we gotten everything we’ve wanted? For sure not,” he said. “Are they fair? Yeah. Sometimes I don’t feel that way, but sometimes they are.

“There is a bunch of money going into the stadium improvements. Some in the premium spaces, some up higher. I think that’s fantastic. The building is 20-plus years old. It’s shocking that buildings become dated that fast. But it does need some improvements.”