Gameday is a sensory experience. From the songs of the Emerald City Supporters to the Summer sun (or Fall rain) CenturyLink Field lives and breathes when Seattle Sounders FC take the field. In 2013 it also started breathing fire.
It was an idea initially met with skepticism regarding safety and difficulty in implementation. After internal discussions and a couple tests it got the go ahead.
Those goal post flames are unique to Seattle in all the world of soccer.
“I felt it first,” Sounders FC Vice President of Business Operations Bart Wiley said. “It’s amazing how far you can be from that structure and still feel the heat. We’re walking a fine line between an entertaining atmosphere and the purity of the sport.
We’re very cognizant of that line. That’s why we asked several different folks – Council, Supporter Groups – to make sure that everyone bought in before we gave it a shot.”
That attitude also goes towards use of the video board. Rather than as a prompt when to chant and sing it is a signal as to what is already going on in a significant segment of the stadium. It’s part of the challenge for the gameday presentation staff and how they manage video, audio and now fire.
Mark Tamar is the Director of Event Presentation & Fan Engagement for the Seahawks and Sounders FC. That does not mean that his actions are the same. Just as the lines on the field/pitch change, so does the fanbase and presentation.
“Certainly the fanbases are different,” Tamar said of his dual role. “The Sounders fans are passionate just like the Seahawks fans are. They really like to be involved in the direction of the team and how things are presented. One of the bigger challenges is finding ways to work with that fanbase and find ways that they are comfortable with in improving how we present the game. I think that sense of ownership that this fanbase has is really empowering.”
This year more game notes, biographical facts and statistics show up on the video board. There is also less music and other audio coming from the organization. Both of those are responses to what the fans and supporters wanted from the club. Now in the fifth year Seattle’s back office is trying different things. Much of that is a reduction of them and more of you.
“To stand there and see the boom-boom clap take hold, the Seattle Sounders take hold, the scarves up take hold, it’s very thrilling. The best part about it is that all of those elements are fan driven,” Wiley said of the changes from 2009 to present. “We kind of sit back and watch.”
Scoring almost two goals a match and with nine more home games left there is plenty more time to see the fire, and maybe a few flips, flying fist pumps, boom-boom and other celebrations.
When those flames go off you feel it, you see it, you may even hear it through the thrill of the crowd. There’s just one thing. The fire is the wrong color. That’s due to safety, but they did look at it.
“The way that technology works to change the color of the fire you have to make it a liquid form. Making it a liquid you have the possibility of a malfunction of getting a liquid on the field and catching fire,” Tamar explained. “We work with propane and vapor which puts that possibility to bed. So you won’t see green flame.”
But you will see Fuel, Fire and that which you Desire.