The Qwest Field grounds crew was hard at work last week switching from soccer to football lines on the turf, and could have even less time to do this in the fall
Qwest Field’s facilities and field crew passed its first big test last week. But another challenge may await, if Sounders FC makes it to the Major League Soccer playoffs.
The stadium grounds crew successfully removed the soccer lines from the pitch beginning right after last Thursday’s match against New England, and got the FieldTurf ready with football chalk lines and painted end zones for the Seahawks-Broncos exhibition game less than 48 hours later.
“That was our shortest turnaround of the year,” said Gary Wright, Sounders FC senior vice president of business operations. The crew had two full days to lay down natural grass for the FC Barcelona match on Aug. 5, a few days after a Kenny Chesney concert at the stadium.
The issue of making sure no football lines appear during soccer matches, and vice versa for football games, was one that both teams emphasized as soon as the MLS schedule was set last February. The league presumably realized that from August until November, Qwest had to be shared between Sounders FC and the Seahawks, and front-loaded the Rave Green’s schedule with home games.
Now Sounders FC has only three regular-season matches left at Qwest Field, Saturday against Toronto FC, Sept. 19 against Chivas USA and Oct. 24 against FC Dallas. The Seahawks are either on the road those weekends or have a bye, leaving the setup crew at least five days to switch from football to soccer or soccer to football.
“In most cases, the schedules and timing of events are taken into consideration to ensure adequate transition time for field set-up from event to event,” said John Wright, Seahawks and Sounders FC’s director of facilities and fields.
The MLS playoffs will get under way the last week of October — the Seahawks are on the road Nov. 1 — but if Seattle advances, there must be a plan ready to be implemented. Both teams are working on that plan even now, and they’ve invested in additional equipment to get the job done faster if needed.
“At some point, you’ll probably see some shadowing, but that’s from taking the paint off,” Wright said. “If you say you’re a major-league team in a major-league sport, you should play on your own lines.”
Wright said he heard from soccer purists before the Sounders FC season began, with their concerns about the football lines at Qwest Field.
“And rightfully so,” he said. “We have to prove it. We have to get through the whole season.”
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org