The Sounders are expanding into the South Sound.
At a joint press conference between the Tacoma Rainiers and the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday evening at Doyle's Public House in Tacoma, it was announced that Sounders FC 2's transition to Tacoma has been accelerated. While the plan remains that S2 will eventually have a soccer-specific stadium on the footprint of the historic Cheney Stadium, it is now determined that the USL side will transition several seasons ahead of schedule. In March 2018, S2 will begin playing its USL matches at Cheney Stadium.
Thursday's announcement featured a panel of Rainiers President Aaron Artman, Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma City Council Member Ryan Mello, former United States Congressman Norm Dicks, in addition to Sounders Community Trust President Kyle Boyd.
The event fostered a fun and engaging atmosphere, with a packed crowd filling a tent in the bar's parking lot. There were plenty of food and drink options, live music, and even a surprise appearance by the Epic Sax Gorilla, which is an entertainment staple at Tacoma sporting events.
"It was really exciting, we've had an overflow crowd here today," Lagerwey said. "We had a great event with the mayor, city council member and a former U.S. Congressman, it's been really fun. We really feel the city of Tacoma is behind this. This enthusiasm is really fun."
While not every detail has been secured regarding the move, it was evident at Wednesday's event that the city of Tacoma is excited for the move. The Sounders will continue to oversee the technical side with training sessions remaining at Starfire Sports Complex, while the Rainiers take on the business operations. A full rebrand of Tacoma's USL side could take place as soon as the 2019 season, which is one year prior to the club's targeted year of 2020 for the club''s new 5,000-seat stadium.
"It's exciting, it's a fun new challenge," Artman said. "There is some cautious optimism, we haven't done this before and we're on a tight timeline, but we have great partners with the Sounders... I think this is such a cool thing for the city of Tacoma."
Added Mayor Strickland: Tacoma is a city that is seeing challenges of growth. Now it's about managing that growth and helping the community understand that this is an asset for the city."
Originally announced in May of 2017, the partnership brings together two of the Northwest's premier professional sports organizations to reach a first-of-its-kind relationship in USL within the same regional market.
"We are working with the Rainiers because we believe they can make us better," Lagerwey said. "We are working with experts, people who know this industry and know this community."