For the last five years, Seattle Reign FC has proudly called Memorial Stadium home.
You – our fans and supporters – helped us fill the stadium with countless memories. Together, we infused Memorial Stadium with a renewed sense of purpose. In return, we were entertained and inspired by some of the greatest female footballers to ever play the game.
And so it is with great sadness that we share that Seattle Reign FC’s time at Memorial Stadium has come to an end.
Out of these challenging circumstances has arisen an opportunity that fills us with great optimism for our future: we are excited to announce that the team will play its home matches at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma beginning with the 2019 NWSL season.
As a result of the move, the team will now be known as Reign FC.
The name change reflects not just the move to the South Sound, but also celebrates our ambition to represent the entire region.
We understand that these changes will raise many questions, so in this letter we will do our best to explain what drove the need to vacate Memorial Stadium, the options we considered, the process we used to evaluate our options, and the reasons why we believe that the move to Tacoma is the best possible option to support the long-term growth and success of the team.
In late 2017, the NWSL made clear to us that Memorial Stadium – in its current condition – would no longer be suitable to host our home matches beginning with the 2019 season.
Specifically, the playing surface at Memorial Stadium does not meet U.S. Soccer Pro League Standards, which U.S. Soccer and the NWSL decided they can no longer abide. Additionally, the NWSL requires that stadiums be suitable and available for national television broadcasts each season; Memorial Stadium falls short in this regard as well.
Complicating things further, in mid-2017 Seattle Public Schools informed us that our lease for Memorial Stadium was unlikely to be extended beyond the 2018 season, as (at that time) they had plans to tear down and rebuild Memorial Stadium beginning as early as 2019.
Together, this constellation of challenges posed an existential threat to our organization.
Understanding that we would have to adhere to NWSL requirements by the 2019 season, and factoring in the ambiguity around the future of Memorial Stadium, for the last twelve months we pursued two primary options to try and overcome these challenges:
1) We explored the feasibility of upgrading Memorial Stadium in a manner sufficient to allow us to continue playing in the facility.
2) We evaluated every stadium in the Seattle area that is or could be made compliant with U.S. Soccer and NWSL standards.
As for option one, in August of 2018 we were granted somewhat of a reprieve: Seattle Public Schools informed us that the Memorial Stadium project would not be included in the capital levy that Seattle residents will vote on this February.
Despite this bit of good news from Seattle Public Schools, after much consideration we ultimately determined that it was not economically feasible to make the improvements to Memorial Stadium required by the NWSL.
Memorial Stadium was built in the 1940’s before any modern standards existed – safety, accessibility, security and seismic standards have all evolved such that it was financially impracticable to upgrade the stadium to a standard that would meet the needs of our league, our players and our fans.
Even if we could have made the necessary investments to improve the stadium, the inability of the facility to provide our fans with a modern matchday experience would have made it impossible to generate sufficient revenue to allow us to operate the team in a manner that is economically sustainable.
Which left us with option two.
We spent much of 2018 looking at alternative stadiums in the Seattle area. We focused our efforts between Tukwila and Bothell, evaluating any stadium that had (or, at least theoretically, could be made to have) a compliant playing surface, at least 5,000 seats (also required by U.S. Soccer Pro League Standards), and locker rooms with showers.
We evaluated and eliminated the following stadiums:
- Pop Keeney Stadium – non-compliant playing surface (insufficient width in stadium)
- Husky Soccer Stadium (UW)– non-compliant seating; no locker rooms
- Husky Stadium (UW) – non-compliant playing surface (insufficient width in stadium)
- Interbay Stadium – non-compliant playing surface; non-compliant seating
- Championship Field (Seattle University) – non-compliant seating
- T-Mobile Field – field conversion costs made it economically unfeasible
- Starfire Stadium – non-compliant seating
The only stadium that is currently fully-compliant with U.S. Soccer Pro League Standards between Tukwila and Bothell is CenturyLink Field.
We worked with First & Goal Inc. (the parent company that owns the Seahawks and operates CenturyLink Field) in an attempt to make a permanent move to the stadium. Despite the best efforts of all involved, in the end we were unable to find a solution that would allow Reign FC to play its home matches at CenturyLink Field.
This left us with no viable option in the Seattle area.
Thankfully, in March of 2018 we started a conversation with the ownership group of the Tacoma Rainiers, who owns and operates Cheney Stadium, and is in a joint venture with Sounders FC to operate their USL squad in Tacoma.
These discussions occurred on a fairly regular basis throughout 2018. The more we learned about the group, including their vision for growing the game in Tacoma, the more we believed Tacoma could be a potential solution.
We spent a lot of time inside Cheney Stadium to imagine the matchday experience we could provide. We can say with certainty that the experience our fans will have at the stadium will be an exponential jump from what we could deliver at Memorial Stadium. Cheney Stadium features a grass pitch. Reserved seats. More and better food options. Ample parking. And yes, you can even have a beer at your seat.
We also spent time getting to know the city, and again we came away impressed. Tacoma is a city on the rise. It has an understated charm, many areas of undeniable beauty, and has incredible potential to be the next great city in the Pacific Northwest. It was exciting to consider our team playing a role in helping the city realize its full potential.
It ultimately became clear that Tacoma was the best possible option for our organization. So as one door closed in Seattle, another opened in Tacoma.
By moving to a stadium that can deliver a truly modern matchday experience, we reduced uncertainty about our future and created the conditions under which further investment in the club could be made with confidence.
This encouraged the group operating the Rainiers and S2 (led by Mikal Thomsen, Chairman and CEO of the Tacoma Rainiers) to take a minority ownership stake in Reign FC.
While this investment will deliver immediate benefits to the club, it is the long-term impact of our collaboration with Mikal and his organization in Tacoma that provided us with the most compelling reason to make the move.
Efforts are already underway (led by Mikal) to build a soccer-specific stadium in Tacoma. Should all go according to plan, Reign FC will train and play its matches in a new, state-of-the-art facility beginning with the 2021 season.
These transformative changes to our club have made others confident in our future prospects as well.
Adrian Hanauer and his mother, Lenore Hanauer, will make a separate minority investment in the club. Adrian and Lenore have both been supportive of our club since its inception, so we are excited to welcome them to the Reign FC ownership group.
The renewed strength of the ownership group will provide long-term stability, support and strategic leadership that will ensure that Reign FC is able to achieve success both on and off the pitch.
While Reign FC will be centered in Tacoma, we will remain an asset for the entire region, including Seattle and the Eastside.
Our efforts in this regard start with our partners. Zulily, our presenting partner for 2019, has been incredibly supportive throughout this transition. Additionally, Microsoft will return as our Technology Partner for 2019, and both Avanade and BECU will return as key partners for our organization.
Reign Academy, which plays in the U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy, will continue to serve elite-level players throughout the region and will continue to train in Seattle and the Eastside. Our move to Tacoma will also allow us to expand the scope of the Academy for the upcoming 2019/2020 season.
And for our fans and supporters in Seattle and the Eastside we plan to host open training sessions in Seattle each month. Attendees will be able to attend the sessions at no cost, and we’ll make sure that everybody has a chance to chat with the team and grab an autograph or two at the end of each session.
We’ll share other initiatives over the coming weeks and months that demonstrate our continuing commitment to fans across the entire region.
As we look ahead, we believe it is important to recognize the individuals and organizations who have worked so hard on our behalf over the past six years.
First, to Seattle Public Schools, we appreciate all your support over the last five seasons. Despite the move, we are very proud to have called Memorial Stadium our home.
Second, to all our corporate and community partners in Seattle, thank you for investing your time, effort and resources in our organization.
Third, to our friends at King County and the City of Seattle, thank you for your ongoing efforts on our behalf.
And most importantly, thank you to all our fans for their commitment and passionate support of our club.
We truly believe the best is yet to come, and we are hopeful that you will continue to support Reign FC as we make this incredible journey forward.
Bill and Teresa Predmore
January 30, 2019