USL soccer in Tacoma’s future as Sounders, Rainiers reveal stadium plans

TACOMA, WA— Seattle Sounders FC and the Tacoma Rainiers are going to be partners in building a new 5,000 seat soccer stadium next to the Cheney Stadium (baseball) that will become the home of the team currently called “Sounders 2 (S2).”

Watch ESPN video.

Sounder At Heart has been following the S2 to Tacoma storyine, and they have updated their most-recent look at the scenario.

Sounders / Rainiers release

SEATTLE, WASH. – Seattle Sounders FC and the Tacoma Rainiers today announced that they have reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), progressing to build a 5,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium on the footprint of Cheney Stadium in Central Tacoma. The proposed site is set to be the future home of Sounders FC’s rebranded United Soccer League franchise, which would be co-managed by the Rainiers alongside Sounders FC, with the former managing business operations and the latter controlling the soccer and sporting infrastructure. This news was originally reported by ESPN Analyst Taylor Twellman on Saturday’s national broadcast from CenturyLink Field.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be moving forward with the Tacoma Rainiers and City of Tacoma, progressing toward construction of a soccer-specific stadium,” said Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer. “Our vision of having players begin their time with the club playing at Starfire with the Academy, then move up to the USL team with matches in Tacoma, before finally getting the call-up to the First Team at CenturyLink Field – all while playing within the Puget Sound region – really reinforces our commitment to bringing quality soccer to the communities of Western Washington.”

See some links via the tweets below.

The partnership brings together two of the Northwest’s premier professional sports organizations to reach a first-of-its-kind relationship in USL within the same regional market. The Tacoma Rainiers are an award-winning franchise that has been a staple of the South Sound community for over 50 years, operating as the top affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners. They will operate the business side of the new era of the USL club, taking advantage of the decades of experience operating a professional organization in the Tacoma market, while Sounders FC is set to maintain leadership over soccer operations and sporting infrastructure. With key details coming together – including a name for the organization that is representative of its new home – the MOU and stadium progress represent tangible news for soccer fans in the South Sound.

“This is the art of the possible,” Rainiers President Aaron Artman said. “What can we create, with our community and our partners, that adds to Tacoma’s current trajectory? Now that both parties have agreed on a structure to move forward – as one entity representing USL soccer in Tacoma – it gives us the ability to work together to try to deliver a first-class stadium experience.”

“We’ve seen what a great sports market Tacoma can be in the seven years we’ve owned the Rainiers,” said Mikal Thomsen, Chairman and CEO of the Rainiers. “Now, in partnership with an incredible organization like the Sounders, we get an opportunity to bring another great franchise, and sport, to the South Sound.”

Sounders FC’s soccer operations are set to remain at Starfire Sports, the club’s Tukwila-based training ground. The First Team, S2 and Sounders FC Academy will all continue to train at Starfire under watchful eye of the club’s technical staff led by General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. The new Tacoma stadium provides a first-class matchday facility for the rebranded S2 side, and gives the organization an opportunity to call-up players from Tacoma, mirroring the Mariners’ relationship with the Rainiers. Additionally, Sounders FC is currently engaged with the Sounders Community Trust (SCT) – a charitable, fan and supporter-managed, non-profit organization that maintains a 20-percent interest of Sounders FC 2 – about next steps in Tacoma.

“Partnering with the Rainiers to provide a first-class matchday atmosphere for our USL team is going to be very beneficial in developing our players,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “For the Rainiers to be able to utilize their business expertise in the Tacoma region and for us to retain technical control of the soccer side is an ideal fit for what we want to do with our USL team.”

“There is such a storied history of soccer in Tacoma and we’re very excited to expand the club’s reach to include a larger part of the community,” said Sounders FC Chief Operating Office Bart Wiley. “The Rainiers are an exemplary organization with a history of success in the South Sound, so we couldn’t have asked for a better partner in this venture.”

In moving to Tacoma, Sounders FC embraces an opportunity to establish a strong foothold in a market rich with soccer history. Current Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer and club legend Alan Hinton were involved with the Tacoma Stars in the 1980s, an organization that the Rainiers recently operated at the ShoWare Center in Kent. Tacoma’s grassroots soccer ties run deep, from the formation of Washington Youth Soccer in the City of Destiny in 1966, to the professional ranks with sides like Tacoma Wanderers and the Stars.

“While the City must conduct due diligence on this opportunity, we are excited that the Tacoma Rainiers have partnered with the Seattle Sounders to explore building a soccer stadium to bring USL soccer to Tacoma,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “The prospect of having the best Triple-A baseball stadium and the best USL stadium in the country is great for families and sports fans in the 253 area code!”

“Metro Parks is pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Tacoma Rainiers and the Seattle Sounders to explore the feasibility of building a soccer stadium in Tacoma,” said Metro Parks President Andrea Smith. “Metro Parks knows firsthand the passion Tacomans have for baseball and soccer, and this truly would be an incredible opportunity for Tacoma and would provide a unique venue where Metro Parks could potentially partner and offer sports programming to the community. Staff is eager to roll up their sleeves and work with both the Rainiers and the Sounders to explore all of the possibilities to make this soccer stadium a reality.”

ABOUT SOUNDERS FC
Winner of the 2016 MLS Cup, 2014 MLS Supporters’ Shield and four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championships (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014), Sounders FC is Seattle’s Major League Soccer franchise. With an ownership group led by Seattle-based entrepreneur Adrian Hanauer, Hollywood executive Joe Roth, Seattle Seahawks Chairman Paul G. Allen and entertainer Drew Carey, the club received an MLS charter on November 13, 2007 and has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in every year of its existence. In 2016, Sounders FC reached a milestone as the franchise claimed its first MLS Cup championship with a road victory over Toronto FC. Since the club’s debut MLS season in 2009, Sounders FC has set the standard for soccer support in North America by leading the league in attendance each year. Prior to joining MLS, the Seattle Sounders organization has been a part of the greater Seattle community and U.S. Soccer professional scene since 1974.

ABOUT THE TACOMA RAINIERS
The Tacoma Rainiers are the longest-tenured member of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, and the top affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Since their inaugural season in the PCL in 1960, the Tacoma franchise has captured five league championships and secured 14 playoff appearances. Off the field, the Rainiers have established themselves as one of the premier sports franchises in professional baseball, accumulating numerous awards and improving the fan experience on an annual basis. Since its renovation in 2010, Cheney Stadium has received numerous upgrades such as the R Yard outfield viewing deck, the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital Family Pavilion, and the brand-new left field party deck featuring professional baseballs first-ever fan fire pit.

– SOUNDERS FC –

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