Starfire Stadium, Memorial Stadium, Cheney Stadium. Since the inaugural season of NWSL play in 2013, OL Reign have been through an odyssey of venues as their home stadium. Today, the club is packing up the moving boxes once again, this time with the destination marked Lumen Field.
You read that right — OL Reign will be returning to Seattle, this time calling Lumen Field their new, full-time home for the 2022 NWSL season and beyond. The club announced the move today in a press conference at the stadium, confirming they have signed a multi-year lease. The team plans to start with a configuration where the east and south sections of the lower bowl are open, for a capacity of approximately 10,000, but they have the flexibility to open more seating as demand warrants.
A nearly decade-long dream finally became a reality on Aug. 29, when OL Reign hosted their Cascadia rivals Portland Thorns FC at Lumen Field in front of a crowd of over-27,000 fans. The 2-1 victory was the first half of a historic doubleheader dubbed, “The Pacific Northwest Experience,” and served as a reminder that this team, having featured some of the most high-profile players in the women’s game throughout its existence, deserves a premier stage like Lumen Field, especially if that venue wants to claim its devotion to the beautiful game and be a host for the 2026 men’s FIFA World Cup.
You’d be hard-pressed to find any Reign fan who didn’t consider the game back in August at Lumen Field one of their top moments of the season, if not the top moment. For the longest time, we all dreamt what an NWSL match at Lumen Field would look like. Would people come? Would the team on the field live up to the occasion? Those two questions were each met with a resounding, “Yes!”
When the Reign departed Memorial Stadium ahead of the 2019 NWSL season, they looked into moving to then-named CenturyLink Field, but the cost and risk was too much for the ownership at the time to take on. Thus, they opted to relocate to Tacoma with a plan to play at Cheney Stadium on a temporary basis while, in collaboration with the City of Tacoma, the Sounders and Tacoma Rainiers, developing and building a soccer-specific stadium in the area with an opening date targeted for 2022.
The original concept of a stadium with a capacity of around 6,500 was understandably put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with rising stadium standards being set by the NWSL the project’s feasibility was recently reevaluated to determine if a larger stadium could fit in the proposed location. Based on that study, although a 10,000 seat stadium would be physically feasible, there were a number of factors that made it financially unviable, and with an unworkable timeline for the Reign’s upcoming needs.
“We are grateful for the support of the community in Tacoma, and especially for the efforts of all the individuals and organizations who worked so hard on the new stadium project. In particular, the support of Mayor Woodards—who from the start was our biggest fan in Tacoma—will always be appreciated by our organization,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore.
In parallel with reevaluating the feasibility of the Tacoma stadium project, OL Reign resumed discussions with the owners/operators of Lumen Field, First & Goal, about the possibility of playing in that stadium. This time, thanks to the financial backing of OL Reign’s new majority owners, OL Groupe, the sides were able to reach an agreement to make that long-time dream a reality.
“We are very pleased that OL Reign will have the chance to return to its original home in Seattle,” said OL Groupe Chairman Jean-Michel Aulas in the club’s announcement. “The attractiveness of our project in the U.S. comes in large part from our strong belief in the region. It gives us confidence to make substantial investments to grow the club, which we hope will lead to even greater support from fans and from the community.”
“We are thrilled to develop a new chapter of our project at Lumen Field,” said OL Reign COO Vincent Berthillot. “The record attendance at our match at Lumen Field this season showed us that there is deep support for the club in Seattle, giving us confidence that a return to Seattle is the right long-term decision for the club.”
When Laura Harvey returned to coach OL Reign halfway through the 2021 season, of course there were plenty of familiar faces at the club, but she knew that OL Groupe’s ambition with the club was something she had to be a part of.
“This has been the goal since my first day in Seattle,” said Harvey. “To see how far this team and the league have come in nine years is incredible. We may not have always had the resources, but we always had the vision, the ambition, and the drive to be something special. Coupling the club’s historic DNA with the support that OL provides has resulted in something magical. I am so happy for the players that they’ll finally have the chance to show the city what they can do in a stadium worthy of their talents.”
Captain and Reign Original, Lu Barnes echoed the sentiment about the club’s return to Seattle. “The doubleheader was an incredibly emotional day for the entire team, but especially for those of us that have been with the club since the beginning. We imagined the day for a long time, so it was amazing to finally see it happen. The match gave us a glimpse of what our future could be if the team returned to Seattle. We are so happy that we’ll be back in Seattle and playing at Lumen Field. We can’t wait for the 2022 season to begin!”