The Sounders and Tacoma Rainiers Class AAA baseball team have reached a preliminary deal on building a 5,000 seat soccer-specific stadium in Tacoma to host the Sounders 2 USL team. Rainiers would run the business side of the team while Sounders would handle soccer operations
The Sounders have struck a deal with the Class AAA Rainiers baseball team to build a 5,000-seat stadium in Tacoma to house their United Soccer League affiliate.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the clubs looks to build the stadium, designed by the Populous architectural firm, in time for the 2020 season. The new venue would be soccer-specific and house the Sounders 2 affiliate, which currently plays at the StarFire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
“This will be a process and by no means do we think we’re out of the woods on this,’’ Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer said Saturday. “But we have a great group that we’ve put together between the Rainiers and the Sounders and the city and the stakeholders in Tacoma. And we’re confident that we can get something done.’’
Hanauer said he thinks 2020 is a workable completion date for the venue if negotiations go well and that his team is taking the Rainiers’ “lead’’ on talks. The venue would be on city-owned land adjacent to Cheney Stadium, home of the Rainiers.
The Rainiers would assume control of S2 business operations and rebrand the team under a Tacoma-specific name while the Sounders would continue to manage the soccer side as co-owner.
“I think it’s the 2020 season,’’ Rainiers president Aaron Artman said Saturday of the time frame for a stadium opening. “Is there an outside chance at ’19? I guess. But we’d probably prefer to have the time to work through all of the logistics and things without rushing it.”
Artman said there’s no word yet on full stadium cost or financing, though the involvement of city land means some type of “public-private partnership” will likely take place.
“We’ve got an appetite for it across the board here,” he said of local government agencies. “Everybody’s on board with figuring out the way to do it.”
S2 opened to strong attendance in 2015 but has struggled with brand identity in the shadow of its parent club. There’s a thought that moving the team to Tacoma — where there are no outdoor pro teams besides the Rainiers — could make them a better business brand while keeping them close enough to Seattle for player evaluations and call-ups.
In fact, the USL team will continue to train alongside the Sounders in Tukwila even after a move is complete. The Rainiers just completed a two-year business arrangement in which it did marketing and branding for the Tacoma Stars indoor soccer team.
“We think we have a pretty good handle on how to operate a soccer franchise in this market,’’ Artman said.