BY Art Thiel 03:27PM 03/16/2015

Sounders extend Clink lease for 10 years to ’28

The Sounders and First & Goal Inc., agreed to extend the lease of the Clink another 10 years to 2028. So that ends speculation about pursuit of a soccer-only stadium.

The Clink will be home to the Sounders until at least 2028. / Wiki Commons

So much for the rumor that Adrian Hanauer was maneuvering to build the Sounders a soccer-specific stadium.

The Sounders and First & Goal Inc., the name for the Seahawks’ business operations, said Monday they have agreed to a 10-year extension of their existing CenturyLink Field agreement through the 2028 Major League Soccer season — the end of First & Goal’s 30-year lease with the state-owned facility.

The main reason the Sounders would consider forsaking their nearly ideal set-up and home since 2009 at the edge of downtown Seattle was to have their own pitch made of grass. The current turf field preferred by the other main tenant, the Seahawks, is in its fourth year and the source of complaints by soccer players about its poor condition.

As a matter of principle, soccer purists have always hated turf because of wear on legs as well as impact on ball speed and bounce.

When Hanauer, a minority owner, turned over his GM job to Garth Lagerwey, speculation was almost immediate that Hanauer would devote some time to exploring the possibility of the club’s own joint, especially after separating business operations from the Seahawks, who helped the franchise become a huge business success.

Apparently, the urban location, particularly compared to the dubious suburban locations of some soccer-specific locations in MLS, trumped the turf nuisance. Plus, the Sounders were unlikely to find any nearby municipal government willing to underwrite some of the expense of building a stadium that could justify a footprint for at least 40,000 seats.

Presumably, the Sounders reached some accommodation regarding maintenance and replacement. The previous fake grass had a three-year tenure, and the Sounders lobbied unsuccessfully to end at three years the current rag, er, rug. No mention of terms was made in the announcement.

“The organization and its fan base have set an unprecedented standard for soccer support in North America, culminating in the top six single-season attendance totals in league history and an active streak of 109 consecutive MLS sellouts,” the release quoted majority owner Joe Roth as saying.

The Sounders over the past three seasons have had a home average of more than 43,000 fans, more than double the No. 2 MLS team, the Los Angeles Galaxy. The club finished the 2014 campaign 27th in global average attendance among the world’s top-tier professional clubs (43,734).

To meet demand, MLS capacity was increased to 39,115 this season from 38,300 by expanding to a midfield area on the east side’s 300 level.

The $430 million stadium was authorized by a statewide public vote in 1997 and opened in 2002, using $300 million in public funds to help build the stadium and the adjacent 200,000-square-foot events center.


  • jafabian

    That was a quick signing. I thought the club would eventually go this route but not after a long battle by Adrian with various parties. Let’s see them open that upper deck more now. Surprised they didn’t do that for the opener.

    • sportspressnw

      When I started working with SPNW back in 2010, I asked Todd Dybas why the Sounders didn’t open the stadium for more games. His answer has stuck with me since then and is my basic answer to any, “why don’t they?” business question; They would if they thought it would sell.

    • Art Thiel

      More seats create less scarcity. Hanauer is big on making sure that capacity rarely exceeds demand. He’s more than willing to shut out a few fans in order to maintain or improve ticket value.

  • poulsbogary

    In short, in that stadium it looks, and I can only guess that it must feel, like the teams are playing on cement.

    • Art Thiel

      Besides the hardness, it wears thin in spots. The Seahawks have said they prefer firmer turf, and it’s their park.

      • Kirkland

        In the last years of the Kingdome, the Mariners and Seahawks had separate AstroTurf fields; they would roll up one and lay out the other when the schedule dictated. (Similar to arenas laying a basketball court over hockey ice.) I would love for FieldTurf technology to advance to where the CLink could do that, an easy switch between the softer soccer turf and the firmer football turf in a matter of hours.

  • crapbag

    Didn’t the initial law approving the stadium specifically include natural grass?

    • Art Thiel

      I don’t believe it is in the agreement now, but was proposed at the time of the 1997 state vote.

  • Alan Kelly

    I bet if the put real grass in the stadium the Sounders would like the field even less after a few Oct, Nov, Dec football games on that field. What a mess that would be with our weather. Like Husky Stadium back in the old days. Nothing but a mud bowl.

    • RadioGuy

      Stuff like this always looks good on paper, doesn’t it? And I can’t imagine the Seahawks would appreciate their field (the stadium WAS built to keep the NFL in Seattle, after all…MLS was an add-on) being torn up by sliding tackles during soccer matches.

      • Pete Tsarria

        A lot of my DNA was left on old Lower Woodland Parks’ cinder field.

        • Art Thiel

          I think the issue is less about permanent grass, which for the reasons stated above, can’t be a solution in this climate for a two-sport field.

          The Sounders want a three-year rotation of rugs, plus better maintenance. No word on whether that’s part of the deal.