Adrian Hanauer grew up a Sounders fan, watching the likes of Mark Peterson, Jimmy Gabriel and Roger Davies at the Kingdome during the bygone days of the North American Soccer League.
So it should come as no surprise that the fan-turned-owner has a deep sense for the history being built by the Sounders FC in the early years of the Major League Soccer franchise.
However, he hardly views the Sounders as “his team” any more than he did in those days as a youth watching from the stands. In his words, he is acting merely as a “steward” of the franchise for the Seattle soccer community, ushering the club into a new era in 2009 after taking over the USL club in 2002. The bricks that he lays now in the Sounders FC foundation make up the infrastructure for a club that he hopes will be around for hundreds of years and not the short stints that have befallen most soccer leagues in America previously.
He isn’t alone in taking on that public responsibility, though, as the entirety of the Sounders FC ownership holds that same ideal.
“It’s certainly interesting to step back and think about that. But I do know that Joe Roth and myself and Paul Allen and Drew Carey take our roles as stewards of this franchise very seriously. Everyone involved is passionate about community and the stewardship that we’ve talked about,” Hanauer said. “Hopefully we’re growing the root system and establishing the foundation for the next generation of managers, leaders and owners – because all of those people come and go, but the structure of this club will live on for years and years.”
That philosophy is evident in the club’s efforts within the community that have included works with Special Olympics, America SCORES Seattle, Boys & Girls Clubs, Washington Global Health Alliance and Washington Youth Soccer.
In addition to their responsibilities on the field, players also hold a responsibility with the community and actively participate in programs organized through the club, but also on their own.
When he joined with the rest of the ownership group in 2007, he was glad to see that they all shared that same ideal.
“It’s the philosophy of the club. It’s the philosophy of the individuals and it’s also knowing that doing good things in the community and being a good steward for this franchise for the community is also good business. The two go hand-in-hand,” Hanauer said. “We’re lucky enough to have an ownership group with different backgrounds and experiences, but united in the opinion that being a good steward of this franchise to the community was core to our DNA.”
Carey followed the LA Galaxy prior to joining the ownership group with the Sounders FC and brought with him some unique ideas that have made the Seattle club stand alone among American professional teams. The philosophy of Democracy in Sports further emphasizes the notion that the club is part of a greater community.
It is Carey’s belief that the fans in the stands are the lifeblood of the organization and therefore deserve to have input into how the club interacts with the community as a whole.
“Even though they don’t own the team with their money, fans invest time, they invest energy – they think about the team and talk about the team. They come to the games and travel and get stuck in traffic. They go through all this effort and sacrifice to support this business,” Carey said. “They deserve to have as much as we can give them.”
The club has grown in their success on the field each year, reaching the Western Conference championship series and the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, which begin in March against Tigres of Mexico, as well as off the field where they have set new standards for attendance in each season they have played.
That footprint in the Seattle community will only grow and Hanauer has lofty goals in the long-term.
“Hopefully in ten years, this club is one of the most important soccer franchises in the world and we’re filling CenturyLink Field every single game,” he said. “And the team is woven into the fabric of our community even to a greater extent than it is today.”