OL Reign are returning to Seattle. The club announced Wednesday they signed a multiyear deal to play all home games at Lumen Field beginning with the 2022 slate.
Bill Predmore, the team’s CEO and a minority owner, was joined by a host of dignitaries, including Seattle Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell, outgoing mayor Jenny Durkan, King County executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Sports Commission president Beth Knox, in making the announcement at the stadium.
“We’ve finally, finally, finally achieved (this) goal,” Predmore told the gathering of press and officials. Details weren’t disclosed, but cost is in the high six-figure range.
Predmore and his wife, Teresa, established the Reign as a charter team in the National Women’s Soccer League. In their nine years, the Bold have called Starfire Sports in Tukwila, Memorial Stadium in downtown Seattle and most recently Cheney Stadium in Tacoma home. None of the venues adequately showcased the world-class athletes who’ve populated the rosters since the NWSL’s inaugural season in 2013 while also representing their respective countries for Olympic gold medal wins and World Cup championships.
The Sounders FC, Tacoma Rainiers, Metro Parks Tacoma and the City of Tacoma were recently working alongside the Reign to build a soccer-specific facility to seat 10,000 in Tacoma. The original plan was for the facility to be ready by spring 2022. Those talks stalled amid the coronavirus pandemic, and in reconvening last summer, the approximate $158 million price tag — which would’ve been divvied among the groups — and timetable for conclusion wasn’t economical for the Reign.
Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer alluded to the facility materializing in the future but those close to the discussions said they’ve stalled, again. The Reign will still provide housing for players in Tacoma and train at Bellarmine Prep.
Predmore and OL Groupe, the majority owner of the Reign since 2019, said a move to Lumen Field is a better investment. The facility seats about 68,000 and was built to house the Sounders and the NFL’s Seahawks.
The Sounders held a Cascadia doubleheader in August with the Reign against Portland’s Timbers and Thorns FC, which OL’s French side attended. The event drew an NWSL-record 27,248 to the Reign match. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe scored a brace in the 2-1 win against the Thorns.
“This is exactly the path we followed in France to get to success,” said Reign COO Vincent Berthillot, who represents OL Groupe stateside, of the parent company opening Groupama Stadium in Lyon, France in 2016. The men’s and women’s OL teams play at the 59,000-seat facility.
“Our club drastically changed,” Berthillot continued. “We’ve grown our attendance in the stadium. We’ve been able to grow our fan base. The match-day experience for players and fans was vastly improved. We’re not talking about here the same scale of a project, but this move is still a significant investment for Olympique Lyonnais. (The doubleheader) proved those fans are ready to embrace our team and to share in it. That gave us confidence that we will be successful playing here.”
For the move, the Reign agreed to gradually grow attendance. The lower east stadium bowl and Brougham End supporters’ sections will be open, which amounts to approximately 10,000 seats. Club level and suite options are also available.
Ticket prices begin at $15 per match and can be purchased by calling (866) 997-3446 or online at olreign.com/tickets.
The NWSL and MLS seasons overlap. The Sounders will open at Lumen Field on Feb. 27 against Nashville SC and unveiled the remainder of their schedule Wednesday. NWSL is in the process of forming its schedule, Berthillot stating another doubleheader with the Sounders is possible.
The Bold likely will play the day before or day after the Sounders and both have midweek matches. By fall, both will play around Seahawks games. MLS will conclude its 2022 season with its championship Nov. 5 to make way for the World Cup tournament in Qatar beginning Nov. 21.
Reign coach Laura Harvey said she sat on the Lumen Field turf hours before the doubleheader’s kickoff because she was uncertain when the team would be back. She was hired in 2012 and has memories of painting over the football lines at Memorial Stadium to prepare for Reign matches.
Although stars such as Rapinoe, midfielder Jess Fishlock, keeper Hope Solo and defender Lu Barnes were on the team in the first season, Harvey doesn’t believe the Reign should’ve immediately been housed at Lumen Field.
“The league has made a huge change the last two years,” Harvey said. “The Challenge Cup in 2020, the COVID year, it was the first sports league to come back and do anything. It really changed the trajectory of the league, honestly, and it changed what it could become. This is just another step.”
OL Reign averaged 5,433 fans during the 2021 season at Cheney. The 6,500-seat facility was built for minor-league baseball and is the home for former USL Championship side Tacoma Defiance.
The largest crowd to see a Reign match at Cheney this season was 5,273 for the NWSL playoff loss against the Washington Spirit in November. The Bold reconfigured the facility to host 7,479 for a World Cup Homecoming match against the Chicago Red Stars in 2019.
Fans weren’t permitted to attend matches in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“I’m heartened to see the women of OL Reign gain access to soccer facilities that are on par with those of their male counterparts,” Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards said in a statement. “While that may have resulted in a change in venue in this case, we will continue to root for their success. We look forward to building on conversations with our partners and exploring opportunities to fully activate Tacoma’s sports amenities.”