TACOMA, WASH. – On Tuesday, July 9, a joint study session and public meeting was held at Tacoma City Hall regarding the ongoing soccer-specific stadium project in Central Tacoma and related efforts within the metro Tacoma region. As previously announced on January 30, a feasibility study was being conducted for a three-part concept to serve the Tacoma and greater Pierce County communities, inclusive of a state-of-the-art soccer-specific stadium, the potential for mixed-use development and a new multi-field sports complex in Tacoma. Tuesday marked the first open forum where the findings of the feasibility study were shared with the public.
FOR MEDIA USE – FEASIBILITY STUDY FINDINGS: https://sndrs.com/atcrb
If the Soccer Club of Tacoma – the joint-venture representing Seattle Sounders FC and the Tacoma Rainiers – the Tacoma City Council and the Metro Parks Tacoma Board all agree to proceed with the project, then the parties will engage in further communications with the public and conduct all appropriate regulatory processes to evaluate the proposal. Final decisions on the project will not be made until all necessary regulatory and community stakeholder processes are completed. The constituents represented within the Soccer Club of Tacoma are excited about the potential of the project and the strong interest of public and private entities interested in participating, such as MultiCare and the University of Washington Tacoma.
While the completion of the feasibility study is a significant milestone, the partners must complete the negotiation process that defines the terms and conditions of the project, seek approval of the Tacoma City Council, Metro Parks Board and the ownership group of the Soccer Club of Tacoma. That process is taking place over the next 30-60 days.
Quotes from representatives of the Soccer Club of Tacoma from Tuesday’s public forum are included below.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC OWNER ADRIAN HANAUER
“I started playing soccer when I was three years old, and when I was eight, the Seattle Sounders came to Seattle. For me, 45 years later, I’m still connected to that organization to the spirit of what that brought to the city of Seattle. I went to the camps, I collected autographs, those players were my role models. I aspired to be a professional soccer player – I wasn’t good enough. Little would I know that all these years later, I would have the opportunity to be in professional sports and professional soccer. For me, to see what it does for communities – as I grew up, I didn’t realize what was happening to me and how important the sport was to me growing up and all the life lessons it taught. Soccer has this way of catalyzing communities. Sport has this way, but soccer with its diversity, inclusion, global nature – it’s really kind of amazing. You see it with the World Cup and how its brought an entire globe together, not to mention what it’s done for the United States and certainly what it will do for Tacoma when Reign FC returns – who, by the way, had eight players playing in the World Cup from five different nations. Ultimately, on a very small level, although exciting, we saw it a few weeks ago. The Sounders were down here for a game in the U.S. Open Cup. Cheney Stadium was packed. It was the Tacoma community, it was an amazing event, an amazing evening. Finally, for me, the thing that’s interesting is that I have to be completely honest and transparent – as I was growing up, Tacoma did not seem like part of my broader community, but our region is changing, and Tacoma is part of my community today. I’ve been down in Tacoma more in the last two years than I was probably the 40 years before. This is an amazing and energized and exciting part of our region. I believe these sorts of partnerships and opportunities are super valuable and cool and make the community great. I realize this is a difficult process and we will need to make the economics work, but we are super excited to be partnering with Mikal, Aaron and the team. We commit to being good partners and good community members.”
TACOMA RAINIERS CHAIRMAN & CEO MIKAL THOMSEN
“I was excited when we had the opportunity to come in and take a look at buying into the baseball team, certainly because of my background with going to games there from childhood on, but also because when it was presented to us, the city of Tacoma and the Cheney Foundation made a commitment to put $28 million into revamping the stadium and making it into something that could be a centerpoint for the city. It could be a place that attracted people, gave them a great experience. By the beginning of the baseball season next year, we as a company will have put $8 million of our own money into additional things at the stadium – from the R Yard to the R Bar to the playground and a couple of more things that we’re excited to do this fall. It has been a great public-private partnership. Then, we got opportunities to do other things. Perhaps it was because we had the base of a great stadium there, but perhaps also because we had ties to the community. Everyone in my ownership group lives in the Pacific Northwest, lives within driving distance of seeing Rainiers games, and they’re down there often. Most of the people have lived and worked in Pierce County. We got the opportunity to start talking to the Sounders – not because I live across the street from Adrian, but it didn’t hurt. We got an opportunity to talk to the Reign – not because I went to a gym one day and a guy came up to me and said, ‘You know, the Reign is interested in perhaps moving down to Tacoma.’ That didn’t hurt. We’ve got some great opportunities here to take the whole field, the whole chunk of Tacoma and tie it better to the city than it’s been tied ever since SR16 came in and cut off all of the touchpoints that this stadium used to have to the city and the surrounding areas. SR16 came in and while it did a great job of connecting to the Narrows Bridge, it did a horrible thing to Cheney Stadium. This new stadium and the connections we’re making to the city – especially with the light rail coming through – this can tie that whole chunk of ground back in and make it a centerpiece for the city. I’m very excited to be a part of it. We’ve been working for the last two years to figure out a way to put something like this together. It’s great to see the feasibility study come through and we’re excited to work with everyone in this room to make it a reality.”
TACOMA RAINIERS PRESIDENT AARON ARTMAN
“As I think back about Cheney Stadium itself, experts internally and externally – 10-12 years ago – tried to convince me that Tacoma wasn’t a AAA town. That we should let our lease expire, do a small renovation of Cheney and become a Short Season Single-A market. Spokane and Boise at that time were bigger than Tacoma. I say it with great humility and gratitude: look at us now. This is a AAA market. Every decision we make, whether it’s We R Tacoma, it’s our logo, it’s the permits to the stadium – can Cheney Stadium be a beak of aspiration for the city of Tacoma? When I moved here 12 or 13 years ago, there weren’t many beacons, and we wanted to be one of those. Tacoma is changing and Tacoma is growing and now we’re fortunate to sit here and talk about welcoming two professional sports franchises. Reign FC wouldn’t be here without the Sounders partnership. The Sounders have already invested by the end of the season over a million dollars just to converting our field from baseball to soccer and back to baseball. That’s not withstanding the player development costs, the business costs. So it’s a little bit of a gamble or a leap of faith I guess that we’d be crazy enough to bring two sports teams down that are both soccer and play at a baseball stadium. It’s because of the support we get from the city, from our fan base, who’s totally gravitated to what we’ve done that we’re in this position that we’re talking about Megan Rapinoe – the greatest soccer player in the world – is going to be back at Cheney Stadium on July 28. We’re really excited about this project. When you think about taking a parking lot that’s generated a dollar a year to the city of Tacoma in revenue since 1971 and created housing, adding a stadium and the tax revenue that it generates, and how we kind of make this the centerpiece of Central Tacoma. Cheney Stadium is right in the middle of Tacoma, but it’s pretty desolate what surrounds it. Our goal is to use the same expertise, the same commitment to doing what’s right with this stadium and with these soccer franchises. We’re extending a hand to help instead of extending our hand for help, which a lot of teams you see always coming back to the city asking them for more. A lot of the financial modeling in this feasibility study is around that premise. I think we’re fairly conservative in attendance projections and everything else intentionally. I think we would do better than this, but it’s good to be at a conservative level. It is amazing to have the Sounders as partners, it’s amazing to have Reign FC here. Our ownership group – particularly compared to the previous group – has a core belief in this city and a love for this city that drives our business. It’s still a business. We need to make tough decisions, we need to maintain the stadium and the future stadium. But our hearts are in the right place. I think the time is now, and we’re really excited to get to work over the next 30-60 days and come back with some terms and conditions that you can review.”
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC GENERAL COUNSEL MAYA MENDOZA-EXSTROM
“On behalf of the Sounders, I just want to say thank you to the City and Metro Parks for engaging in this feasibility study, both in terms of time and resources. It is something that is unique to the entrepreneurial spirit of being in the South Sound, and something that I’m glad hasn’t changed. It’s really exciting to be working on this project. The Sounders were brought to the table by the Rainiers, and by their vision for community and development and seeing sports as a way to excite a community and bring people together. It’s also part of our DNA at Sounders FC and we wouldn’t be here without that. I think this particular stadium – maybe referencing back to some of the comments and some of the concerns or questions – we wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t a direct, designed intentional public benefit that is dedicated to growing the game of soccer in this community and this region. I think one of the interesting things from a pure soccer perspective that you see in this feasibility report is that unlike other parts of the county, soccer participation numbers from a registration perspective are rising in Tacoma and Pierce County. That is bucking the trend nationally. Yet, there are issues with fields and resources here for organized soccer. Through our Rave Foundation, which is our official non-profit, we’re also concerned and dedicated to looking at the other end of the spectrum and those unorganized games and activities for folks who can’t afford to pay to play. So how do we help support the activities of Metro Parks Tacoma? We’ve already done some site visits to locate and site some small fields that are dedicated to open free play that don’t require you to sign up or speak a language. I look at the energy for soccer in south Tacoma – having played soccer here a lot in my life, having coached soccer a lot in my life – and it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Sounders to be involved in. I will make the commitment on behalf of our organization that we are committed to that larger community vision. It is not just about a place for the Tacoma Defiance to play, but what can we do through this game to grow and expand the opportunities and access to this sport? Expertise, training for coaches – whatever that looks like going forward, we’re committed to that. It’s something that the Sounders continue to be excited about and look forward to.”
RECENT HISTORY OF THE SOCCER-SPECIFIC STADIUM PROCESS & RELATED PROJECTS
In November of 2017, Sounders FC and the Tacoma Rainiers announced that beginning in 2018, the USL club’s previously-announced transition to Tacoma was accelerating, allowing the team to play its home matches at Cheney Stadium while progress continues toward a new soccer-specific facility. The two clubs previously reached a historic agreement to build a 5,000-seat facility in Central Tacoma on the footprint of Cheney Stadium. While that process moves forward, South Sound soccer fans are able to see their USL side play in Tacoma several seasons ahead of schedule.
Then, in a series of key announcements on January 30 of this year at a press conference inside Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium, the Tacoma Rainiers and Seattle Sounders FC unveiled the long-awaited new brand for the organizations’ United Soccer League club: Tacoma Defiance. Beginning play under this new identity immediately, Tacoma’s professional soccer side now officially bears the name of its hometown, while proudly paying homage to the city’s maritime roots and deep sense of civic identity. Additionally, Reign FC announced an immediate move for the National Women’s Soccer League squad to Tacoma. Reign FC and its roster of talented players – including United States Women’s National Team forward Megan Rapinoe – now play in the South Sound. Playing at the highest level of women’s professional soccer in the United States, Reign FC is one of the most decorated professional sides in the women’s game, twice winning the NWSL Shield and making two appearances in the NWSL championship match in just six seasons of play. Like Tacoma Defiance, Reign FC is slated to play its future home matches at the newly-constructed soccer-specific stadium adjacent to the Cheney campus.
In the past year, the Metro Parks Tacoma Board and Tacoma City Council approved resolutions to proceed with a feasibility study of the overall project, with the involved parties developing a three-part concept to serve the Tacoma and greater Pierce County communities. Following Tuesday’s public session of that feasibility study to evaluate the opportunities of each part of the project, the various elements are outlined below.
A NEW HOME FOR PROFESSIONAL SOCCER
- In Tacoma Defiance and Reign FC, this building is now poised to house professional sides in both men’s and women’s soccer, bringing affordable and family-friendly entertainment to Central Tacoma, while simultaneously driving civic pride surrounding both professional teams.
- The new stadium also provides the opportunity to build a best-in-class facility that allows Tacoma to compete for additional regional and national events, in addition to conferences with associated tourism dollars.
- This building positions Tacoma as a market to attract additional sports franchises and / or bid as a host on other sporting events, including professional rugby and lacrosse, international soccer friendlies, NCAA championships and special events.
- MultiCare is set to feature prominently as part of the new soccer-specific stadium in the years to come. With this partnership, the Tacoma-based healthcare organization is committed to operating a 60,000 square-foot space inside the new facility with a range of medical services that will be used by the team and the public.
- Youth and high school athletes would also have access to the stadium. At least 100 days have been committed annually for this purpose.
MULTI-SPORT FIELD COMPLEX WITHIN TACOMA CITY LIMITS
- This portion of the project addresses a key conclusion of the 2016 Joint Athletic Field Study, which found that Tacoma has high demand and a low supply of fields to meet the needs of youth and adults — a dilemma that will heighten as the city’s population grows.
- Many other U.S. cities have turned forgotten spaces into recreational amenities, maximizing public value in the property. Tacoma would look to follow a similar footprint.
HEIDELBERG SPORTS VILLAGE MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT
- Viewed together, the soccer-specific stadium, field complex and mixed-use development could create a transformative opportunity for Central Tacoma, and the MultiCare investment proves that private investment can flourish within this model. This initiative takes advantage of proximity to Highway 16 and the future light rail line on South 19th Street.
- This project creates an opportunity for economic development in Central Tacoma that could include retail and housing.
- The feasibility study is examining the possibility of converting 10 acres of rarely used parking lots for maximum benefit.
- The overall project generates new property and sales tax revenues that support general city and park district services.
ABOUT TACOMA DEFIANCE
Tacoma Defiance is the City of Destiny’s professional soccer team, playing its home matches in the USL Championship at Cheney Stadium. 2019 marks the debut of this new brand following S2’s inaugural USL season in Central Tacoma in 2018. This new identity is directly rooted in Tacoma’s civic history, natural beauty and the proud people that call the city home. A joint venture between the Tacoma Rainiers and Seattle Sounders FC, the Rainiers operate the business side of the organization, while the on-field product is managed as part of Sounders FC’s soccer operations. Led by Head Coach Chris Little, seven players on the current roster were part of the Sounders FC Academy U-17 squad that won the 2017-2018 USSDA National Championship. Eight players on the roster have spent time in the United States Youth National Team system.
ABOUT REIGN FC
Reign FC is one of nine teams in the National Women's Soccer League. The NWSL is the premier women's professional soccer league in North America, featuring many of the top players from the United States, Canada and around the world. After six seasons in Seattle, Reign FC is set to begin its first campaign in the South Sound at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium in 2019. In partnership with the Tacoma Rainiers and Seattle Sounders FC, Reign FC will play inside Central Tacoma’s new soccer-specific stadium upon the completion of that project in the coming years. For more information on the club visit ReignFC.com.
ABOUT THE TACOMA RAINIERS
The Tacoma Rainiers are the longest-tenured member of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, and the top affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Since their inaugural season in the PCL in 1960, the Tacoma franchise has captured five league championships and secured 14 playoff appearances. Off the field, the Rainiers have established themselves as one of the premier sports franchises in professional baseball, accumulating numerous awards and improving the fan experience on an annual basis. Since its renovation in 2011, Cheney Stadium has received numerous upgrades such as the R Yard outfield viewing deck, the Mary Bridge Children's Hospital Family Pavilion, and the brand-new left field party deck featuring professional baseballs first-ever fan fire pit.
ABOUT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
Winner of the 2016 MLS Cup, 2014 MLS Supporters' Shield and four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championships (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014), Sounders FC is Seattle's Major League Soccer franchise. The club received an MLS charter on November 13, 2007 and has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in every year of its existence. Sounders FC reached a milestone in 2016, as the franchise claimed its first MLS Cup championship with a road victory over Toronto FC, which was followed by a second consecutive berth in the league championship in 2017. Since the club's debut MLS season in 2009, Sounders FC has set the standard for soccer support in North America, leading the league in attendance for eight consecutive seasons (2009-2016) and routinely ranking in the top 30 in attendance among all professional teams internationally. Prior to joining MLS, the Seattle Sounders organization has been a part of the greater Seattle community and U.S. Soccer professional scene since 1974.