TACOMA, WASH. – In a series of key announcements today at a press conference inside Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium, the Tacoma Rainiers and Seattle Sounders FC unveiled the long-awaited new brand for the organizations’ United Soccer League club: Tacoma Defiance. Set to begin play under this new identity immediately, Tacoma’s professional soccer side now officially bears the name of its hometown, while proudly paying homage to the city’s maritime roots and deep sense of civic identity. The club also welcomed its first-ever jersey front partner, as Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System took part in today’s press conference, officially joining the Puget Sound soccer community as presenting partner of Tacoma Defiance.
Additionally, Reign FC was on-hand at today’s proceedings, announcing an immediate move for the National Women’s Soccer League squad to Tacoma. Reign FC and its roster of talented players – including United States Women’s National Team forward Megan Rapinoe – are set to play at Cheney Stadium beginning in 2019. Playing at the highest level of women’s professional soccer in the United States, Reign FC is one of the most decorated professional sides in the women’s game, twice winning the NWSL Shield and making two appearances in the NWSL championship match in just six seasons of play. Like Tacoma Defiance, Reign FC is slated to play its future home matches at the newly-constructed soccer-specific stadium adjacent to the Cheney campus.
“This is a special day for Tacoma, and speaks to what’s possible with great partners, and we should be proud of that,” said Tacoma Rainiers President Aaron Artman. “We are proud to reveal the Tacoma Defiance brand, and are grateful for the leadership and support that MultiCare has brought to the stadium project and the Rainiers, Defiance and Reign FC. The addition of Reign FC to Tacoma matters, and shows the power behind great partnerships. We look forward to an exciting, and busy, 2019 in Cheney Stadium, and are committed – with our partners, public and private – to hopefully delivering a world-class soccer-specific stadium and medical facility to Central Tacoma.”
DEFIANTLY TACOMA: INTRODUCING TACOMA DEFIANCE
2019 marks the debut of Tacoma Defiance following S2’s inaugural USL season at Cheney Stadium last year. The new brand identity is directly rooted in Tacoma’s civic history, topographical beauty and the proud people that call the city home.
In consultation with numerous constituencies around the South Sound and City of Tacoma over the past year, the following elements became central to all involved parties in the development of the club’s new identity:
- Point Defiance – The most obvious Tacoma parallel to this updated brand is Point Defiance Park, the crown jewel of the city’s Puget Sound coastline, home to 760 acres of natural old-growth forest, saltwater beaches, rose and rhododendron gardens, marinas and miles of trails for exploration. Once valued by the United States military as an ideal maritime fortress that could “bid defiance to any attack,” the rebellious nickname stuck. President Andrew Johnson once set aside the peninsula as a potential military installation in 1866, but as notions of naval fortitude subsided, Point Defiance Park evolved into one of Tacoma’s most beloved community assets. A perfect combination of rich history, natural beauty and daily utility, Tacoma’s professional soccer club is now tied to this iconic fixture.
- A Maritime Community – Not only does the club’s new moniker take its influence from the physical location of Point Defiance, but the stylized vessel in the primary mark is crafted after the USS Point Defiance. Commissioned in 1955, this combat craft was named after the pride of Pierce County, and saw action throughout the Vietnam War. Additionally, the waters of the Salish Sea that surround Tacoma are legendary as habitat for the Giant Pacific Octopus, with both the primary and secondary marks referencing this unique marine wildlife that is native to the Pacific Northwest.
- Defiantly Tacoma – Tacoma’s sense of civic pride is well known to those that call the city home, and with this new brand identity, the club celebrates that heritage. Tacoma finds strength in its diversity, and as it becomes the second most-populous city in Washington State, it has embraced its City of Destiny refrain. Founded by frontiersmen and mavericks, Tacoma has become an eclectic community of artists, activists, professionals and families. All pride themselves on the grittiness and defiance that have come to represent Tacoma.
“As someone who grew up here, I know what it means to embrace the defiant mindset of being from Tacoma,” said Tacoma Rainiers Chairman & CEO Mikal Thomsen. “People from this town form their own opinions and make their own way in life. They are hardworking, and most of all, they are proud to be from Tacoma. In Tacoma Defiance, we hope that we have created a team identity that this community can rally around for generations to come.”
On the field, Tacoma’s second season at Cheney Stadium is set to be led by new Head Coach Chris Little, who was appointed to the Defiance bench last week after guiding the Sounders FC Academy U-17 squad to the 2017-2018 U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Championship and the 2018 U-17 Generation Adidas Cup title.
The USL club’s first campaign at Cheney Stadium saw increased attendance numbers from previous seasons and a significant advantage in home games to road contests, as S2 finished 2018 with a 5-7-5 record in Tacoma. Future stars such as Azriel Gonzalez, Sam Rogers and Ray Serrano flashed moments of brilliance, while the club returns USL All-League Second Team defender Denso Ulysse in 2019. Ulysse was also named to the league’s 20 Under 20 List at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Seven players on the current roster were part of the Sounders FC Academy U-17 squad that won the 2017-18 USSDA National Championship. Eight players on the roster have spent time in the United States Youth National Team system.
Originally announced in May of 2017, the partnership between Sounders FC and the Rainiers has brought 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 have been operating the business side of the new era of the USL club, taking advantage of the decades of experience managing a professional organization in the Tacoma market, while Sounders FC maintains leadership over soccer operations and sporting infrastructure.
“From the soccer side of our collective business, today’s news marks a sea change for the sport’s growth in Western Washington,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “Our players will continue to be proud representing the city of Tacoma, now with a brand identity that is representative of their current home in Cheney Stadium and the new building in the coming years. Additionally, we want to extend a warm welcome to the Reign as they begin putting down roots in the South End.”
MULTICARE BECOMES FIRST DEFIANCE JERSEY PARTNER
Becoming the first official Tacoma Defiance jersey partner is MultiCare Health System. A nonprofit healthcare organization based in Tacoma, the organization has more than 17,000 employees and a comprehensive system of health across Washington and Northern Idaho. MultiCare includes more than 1,400 employed physicians and other caregivers committed to providing care throughout more than 200 primary care and specialty clinics, Washington’s largest urgent care network, eight regional hospitals and a wide range of community outreach programs and partnerships.
“MultiCare is committed to working with organizations to benefit Tacoma and Pierce County, particularly ones that further our work in building active and healthy communities,” said Bill Robertson, President and CEO of MultiCare Health System. “Along with bringing much-needed medical services to the Central Tacoma area, this collaboration highlights the fact that that our responsibility to the communities we serve doesn’t stop at our doors. We are truly honored to partner with the Rainiers, Defiance, Reign and Cheney Stadium as we collectively support the region’s growth and development as an attractive place to live, work and play.”
In addition to being the presenting partner of all Defiance home and away USL jerseys, MultiCare is set to feature prominently as part of the new soccer-specific stadium in the years to come. With this partnership, the Tacoma-based healthcare organization is committed to operating a 60,000 square-foot space inside the new facility with a range of medical services that will be used by the team and the public.
“In MultiCare, we have found a committed and thoughtful partner that is thoroughly invested in this community,” said Artman. “We would like to welcome them to the Defiance and Rainiers families, and we will be proud to see our players wearing the MultiCare name across their chests when they take the field in the USL Championship this season and beyond.”
REIGN FC JOINS THE SOUTH SOUND MOVEMENT
Set to call Tacoma home beginning in 2019, Reign FC is one of the eight inaugural members of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) that was founded in 2012. The club played its first season at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila before moving to Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center, where it played its home games through the 2018 campaign. Reign FC won the NWSL Shield as the team with the league’s best regular-season record in 2014 and 2015, and advanced to back-to-back NWSL championship games following those campaigns. The club features forward Megan Rapinoe, who is a co-captain of the United States Women’s National Team and helped lead the U.S. to a world championship in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
As part of today’s news regarding Reign FC’s move to the South Sound, Owner Bill Predmore discussed his club’s relocation to Tacoma and the process behind that decision.
Said Predmore, “As we evaluated our stadium options in the region, we began regular conversations with the Tacoma Rainiers. The more we learned about the group operating the Rainiers and Sounders FC’s USL squad – including their vision for growing the game in Tacoma – the more we believed Tacoma could be a potential solution for our organization.”
Predmore continues, “We spent a lot of time inside Cheney Stadium to imagine the matchday experience we could provide. We can say with certainty that the experience our fans will have at the stadium will be an exponential jump from what we could deliver at Memorial Stadium. Cheney Stadium features a grass pitch. The facility allows our fans to access reserved seats, better food and beverage options, in addition to ample parking. We also spent time getting to know the city, and again we came away impressed. Tacoma is a city on the rise. It has an understated charm, many areas of undeniable beauty, and has incredible potential to be the next great city in the Pacific Northwest. It was exciting to consider our team playing a role in helping the city realize its full potential. It ultimately became clear that Tacoma was the best possible option for our organization. So as one door closed in Seattle, another opened in Tacoma.”
In conjunction with the move to Tacoma, the club has also expanded its ownership group. The group operating the Rainiers and Sounders FC’s USL side – led by Mikal Thomsen, Chairman and CEO of the Tacoma Rainiers – is taking a significant minority ownership stake in Reign FC. In addition, Adrian Hanauer and his mother, Lenore Hanauer, are also making a separate minority investment in the club.
“Adrian and Lenore have both been supportive of our club since its inception, so we are excited to welcome them to the Reign FC ownership group,” said Predmore. “The renewed strength of the ownership group will provide long-term stability, support and strategic leadership that will ensure that Reign FC is able to achieve success both on and off the pitch.”
“On behalf of Lenore Hanauer, we are excited to make this additional commitment to soccer in our community and specifically to the women’s game in our region,” said Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer. “With our partners at Reign FC and the Tacoma Rainiers, we look forward to delivering a first-class product on the field in the South Sound for years to come.”
Said Thomsen, “Today is a proud day for our organization, as we welcome a new professional team into the fold, and one that we know will inspire and entertain our community for generations. In Reign FC, world-class women’s soccer has come to Tacoma, and we are thrilled to join our partner Sounders FC in celebrating their arrival.”
Fans wishing to purchase tickets to Reign FC’s upcoming matches may visit ReignFC.com/Tickets to place a deposit for their 2019 season ticket membership. Reign FC’s 2019 schedule is expected to be released in early February.
PROGRESS ON NEW SOCCER-SPECIFIC STADIUM CONTINUES
In November of 2017, Sounders FC and the Tacoma Rainiers announced that beginning in 2018, the USL club’s previously-announced transition to Tacoma was accelerating, allowing the team to play its home matches at Cheney Stadium while progress continues toward a new soccer-specific facility. The two clubs previously 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 can continue to be able to see their USL side play in Tacoma several seasons ahead of schedule.
In the past year, the Metro Parks Tacoma Board and Tacoma City Council have approved resolutions to proceed with feasibility studies of the project, with the involved parties developing a three-part concept to serve the Tacoma and greater Pierce County communities. That feasibility process is currently underway, evaluating the opportunities in each part of the project, which are outlined below. After these studies are complete, the public will have ample time to review, evaluate and comment.
A NEW HOME FOR PROFESSIONAL SOCCER
- In Tacoma Defiance and Reign FC, this building is now poised to house professional sides in both men’s and women’s soccer, bringing affordable and family-friendly entertainment to Central Tacoma, while simultaneously driving civic pride surrounding both professional teams.
- The new stadium also provides the opportunity to build a best-in-class facility that allows Tacoma to compete for additional regional and national events, in addition to conferences with associated tourism dollars.
- This building positions Tacoma as a market to attract additional sports franchises and / or bid as a host on other sporting events, including professional rugby and lacrosse, international soccer friendlies, NCAA championships and special events.
- MultiCare is set to feature prominently as part of the new soccer-specific stadium in the years to come. With this partnership, the Tacoma-based healthcare organization is committed to operating a 60,000 square-foot space inside the new facility with a range of medical services that will be used by the team and the public.
- Youth and high school athletes would also have access to the stadium.
MULTI-SPORT FIELD COMPLEX WITHIN TACOMA CITY LIMITS
- This portion of the project addresses a key conclusion of the 2016 Joint Athletic Field Study, which found that Tacoma has high demand and a low supply of fields to meet the needs of youth and adults – a dilemma that will heighten as the city’s population grows.
- Many other U.S. cities have turned forgotten spaces into recreational amenities, maximizing public value in the property. Tacoma would look to follow a similar footprint.
HEIDELBERG SPORTS VILLAGE MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT
- Viewed together, the soccer-specific stadium, field complex and mixed-use development could create a transformative opportunity for Central Tacoma, and the MultiCare investment proves that private investment can flourish within this model. This initiative takes advantage of proximity to Highway 16 and the future light rail line on South 19th Street.
- This project creates an opportunity for economic development in Central Tacoma that could include retail and housing.
- The feasibility study is examining the possibility of converting 10 acres of rarely used parking lots for maximum benefit.
- The overall project generates new property and sales tax revenues that support general city and park district services.
ABOUT TACOMA DEFIANCE
Tacoma Defiance is the City of Destiny’s professional soccer team, playing its home matches in the USL Championship at Cheney Stadium. 2019 marks the debut of this new brand following S2’s inaugural USL season in Central Tacoma in 2018. This new identity is directly rooted in Tacoma’s civic history, natural beauty and the proud people that call the city home. A joint venture between the Tacoma Rainiers and Seattle Sounders FC, the Rainiers operate the business side of the organization, while the on-field product is managed as part of Sounders FC’s soccer operations. Led by Head Coach Chris Little, seven players on the current roster were part of the Sounders FC Academy U-17 squad that won the 2017-2018 USSDA National Championship. Eight players on the roster have spent time in the United States Youth National Team system.