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Three key takeaways from Sounders’ new training center

RENTON, Wash. — As the Seattle Sounders prepare to enter their 14th season in MLS, there’s no question they’re considered one of the most ambitious clubs in the league. During that time, no team has claimed more points, won more trophies or attracted more fans.

But majority owner Adrian Hanauer has often spoken of a nagging feeling that despite all of the Sounders’ accomplishments, they never really had a proper home.

Despite all the obvious positive attributes of Lumen Field, the Sounders are very obviously tenants of someone else’s building. Similarly, the Starfire Sports Complex has served the Sounders very well, but it’s also a shared facility that has been doubled over many times by most other MLS teams’ facilities.

The recently unveiled plans for the Sounders FC Center in Longacres will certainly change that.

“It will definitely be a gold standard, but this league has really evolved since we entered in 2009,” Hanauer said. “I wouldn’t exactly call it an arms race, but there’s a lot of investment in infrastructure. And we want to be in the lead as much as possible.

While the Sounders haven’t shared exactly how much they’re willing to spend on the new facility, it will almost certainly be the biggest investment the property has made. The Sounders will only occupy part of the 150-acre campus, but they will have room to add at least four full-size pitches (two natural grass and two artificial grass) with the possibility of adding a fifth that will could even serve as a stadium for Defiance.

A lot was discussed at Wednesday’s event. Here are the main takeaways:

The first thing you notice when driving to the future home of the Sounders is that Boeing knew what they were doing when they built it. Unlike most 1990s architecture, it feels like it was built to last with massive glass windows and soft corners.

The interior was even more impressive. The Sounders had apparently considered building something from scratch on the west side of the property, but were stunned to find the bones of what they needed were already in the old Boeing headquarters.

Visitors enter a large, airy lobby and are greeted by a display case containing 14 trophies, including the Sounders’ two MLS Cups and four US Open Cups. Behind it is a three-story wall with dozens of scarves, including two made by Sounder at Heart.

The ground floor of the five-story building is where the public and players will spend most of their time. There will be state-of-the-art dressing rooms for the first team, MLS Next Pro, and academy players which will open onto the main training ground. In the locker room, there will be a modern weight room and training area, as well as the type of locker room that world-class players have come to expect.

There will also be kitchens on site for the first time. Although the Sounders have been reasonably good at providing catered meals, there is only a limited amount of variety that can be offered.

While I’ve never heard of the Sounders losing anyone because they weren’t impressed enough with Starfire, the facility had become a running joke among gamers about being the “secret the Best Kept” of the MLS. I don’t think that will really be a problem anymore.

Perhaps not so visibly, the new facility will also make it easier to recruit non-gaming employees. The Sounders currently plan to occupy approximately 50,000 square feet of the building, but have the capacity to expand well beyond that. Either way, that’s a lot more than the combined square footage they had in their old trade offices at Pioneer Square and Starfire, and I think they’ll have an even easier time attracting the best and the brightest. .

While it’s unlikely that the general public will just be able to come in whenever they want like they could at Starfire – which is technically a public park – Hanauer has made it clear that he sees the Sounders FC Center as a place where fans would be welcome. The names of season ticket holders were wrapped around the pillars outside the building, a not-so-subtle illustration that they are the backers of this organization.

Beyond the impressive entrance, souvenirs are already scattered on the first floor. The larger display is two display cases showcasing various jerseys from throughout the Sounders’ existence, spanning the NASL, USL and MLS eras. Nothing is finalized yet, but there are currently discussions with Washington State Legends of Soccer to have some kind of museum on site.

Renders feature a second-floor viewing deck where fans, media, coaches and front office staff can easily watch practice sessions.

Hanauer even suggested they might be able to open up the space for viewing parties, and even joked about hoping to secure the huge 10ft TV screen they used during the press conference.

Longacres, as you probably know, is a huge property. In the building the Sounders plan to occupy alone, there will be at least 200,000 square feet of office space available for other businesses. The entire 150-acre property includes nearly one million square feet of “Class A commercial” office space, much of which is essentially move-in ready.

Beyond the training ground there is a one kilometer walking path, an apple orchard, two ponds and surprisingly rich public transport access. On one visit, it was noted that it was only a four-minute walk along the trail from the future offices of the Sounders to the train station that connects passengers to Tacoma and downtown. from Seattle. There is already a RapidRide bus that runs from Tukwila light rail station to Renton Landing and eventually there will be another line that will go to Bothel, Lynwood and Shoreline. King County Executive Dow Constantine even said SoundTransit is exploring the possibility of extending the light rail line from West Seattle through Renton to the Eastside.

While this all seems like a stretch if the Sounders Training Center were the main attraction, it’s important to note that Unico Properties plans to build up to 3,000 multi-family units here, a certain percentage of which is pledged to cost control. .

It’s not at all hard to imagine restaurants and other amenities springing up around these units that help make it a true destination.

The hope is that it will be ready in time for the 2024 pre-season, which means work will have to start very quickly. The last grass can start to be planted in July 2023, which means the Sounders have about 17 months to prepare the ground. This will involve cutting down a lot of trees, demolishing a lot of parking spaces and having everything approved by the various government entities. It’s an exciting time.

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