TACOMA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders FC and the Tacoma Rainiers today announced that beginning in 2018, Sounders FC 2’s previously-announced transition to Tacoma is accelerating, allowing S2 to play its home matches at Cheney Stadium, while progress continues toward a new soccer-specific facility. Earlier this year, the two clubs reached a historic agreement to build a 5,000-seat facility in Central Tacoma on the footprint of Cheney Stadium. While that process moves forward, South Sound soccer fans are now able to see their USL side play in Tacoma several seasons ahead of schedule.
Today’s announcement was revealed at Doyle’s Public House in North Tacoma – a soccer stronghold of the South Sound – and was made by a panel consisting of Rainiers President Aaron Artman, Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello, former United States Congressman Norm Dicks, in addition to Sounders Community Trust President Kyle Boyd.
“Our organization was already thrilled to be moving ahead with the Rainiers and the City of Tacoma on the new stadium project, but when we learned of the opportunity to begin playing USL games as soon as 2018 in a facility like Cheney Stadium, we embraced the chance,” said Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer. “From Rainiers leadership to the many civic officials in Tacoma that are working hard to deliver professional soccer to their city, we’re humbled to have such willing partners in this effort. As soon as next season, fans can enjoy a first-class experience at Cheney, allowing the club to make a tangible connection to the City of Tacoma earlier than expected.”
“We are so proud to bring another professional sports franchise to Tacoma,” Artman said. “To partner with the top soccer organization in the country, the Sounders, adds a layer of passion and prestige to the project, fueled by a vibrant South Sound base of supporters. We are excited to deliver a fantastic USL experience with S2 at Cheney in 2018 and 2019, while keeping our focus on delivering a world class soccer specific stadium by 2020.”
Originally announced in May of 2017, 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 – it was announced today that much like the naming of the Sounders FC First Team, Tacoma fans will have influence over the identity of their new club. Details for that process are forthcoming, with the team to play under the S2 brand in the near-term during this transition.
“From kids to adults of all ages, Tacoma is a city that loves sports,” said Mayor Strickland. “Our baseball and soccer fans now have an opportunity to see professional soccer and baseball right here at home in facilities that the City of Tacoma and Metro Parks have developed with a true community partnership. Tacoma is the best kept secret on the West Coast and I am thrilled for the City we all love – Tacoma.”
“Make no mistake about it, today’s announcement is a big win for Tacoma,” Councilmember Mello said. “We will now have another significant regional attraction to draw people to Tacoma. That is good for the economy and it will add local jobs and commerce. However, it also improves our overall quality of life by adding another affordable attraction for our community’s youth and families.”
As previously announced, 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. Both Cheney Stadium and the eventual new facility provide a first-class matchday experience 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.
“The trajectory of soccer in the Puget Sound region continues to exceed our expectations,” said Lagerwey. “Tacoma’s willingness as a city to embrace our USL club and the Rainiers’ nuanced experience within their marketplace have made this immediate transition to Cheney Stadium an exciting and obvious move. We continue to have incredible partners at the City of Tukwila, where all of our athletes train, and the synergy across the entire region continues to give our club a competitive advantage. Today’s news solidifies the club’s vision of having players begin their time with us at Starfire Sports within the Academy, then moving 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 greater Puget Sound soccer community.”
“The Sounders Community Trust is thrilled about the opportunities this new venture provides our member base,” said Boyd. “It’s the beginning of a new era not just for S2, but for the SCT as well. We’ve been working with the Rainiers directly on the move and they’re actively seeking our input. It’s exciting to see the footprint of the Sounders expand to be more representative of the entire Puget Sound Region and it’s an opportunity for us to be more representative of its voice.”
The City of Tacoma has a rooted soccer history and tradition. 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 helped relaunch, with Stars owner and Tacoma native Lane Smith, 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.
Said former Congressman Norm Dicks, “I want to urge Metro Parks and the City of Tacoma to fully embrace this extraordinary opportunity to have the nation’s premier soccer franchise, the Sounders S2 team, play at Cheney Stadium. Let’s put 253 soccer and baseball on the map by building a community 5,000-seat soccer stadium in partnership with our Tacoma Rainiers. You can count me as all in.”