Seattle Reign FC are making a push to become Seattle’s team. After spending 2013 at the popular but out of the way Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, the club announced Thursday it will play home games the next two seasons at Memorial Stadium in the shadow of the Space Needle. Initially half of the available seats will be opened giving the Reign a maximum capacity of about 6,000, all under cover. And so as not to be confused with the city’s Super Bowl champion Seahawks, the Reign will paint over the American football lines and play their NWSL matches on a turf field with only soccer lines.
“There are numerous reasons why,” Reign coach/general manager Laura Harvey said. “One of the reasons is we’re from Seattle and we wanted to play in Seattle. The location is fantastic.”
The Reign will also train at Memorial Stadium, making the prime location in Seattle’s downtown one-stop shopping for the team.
Harvey and owner Bill Predmore first checked out Memorial Stadium in October. Harvey, who only arrived in Seattle to take the Reign job, had heard the stadium was nice but old. But when she walked in there was little she did not like.
“It was pretty breathtaking actually,” she recalled. “The location is fantastic. You’ve got the Space Needle in the background. And the pitch itself is actually a brand new turf. So all of those fears, especially from my personal perspective sort of went out the window pretty quickly.
“The more we looked at it and the things we could do there it gradually became more and more the greatest option for us.”
The stadium is owned and operated by the Seattle Public Schools. The final clearance for the club to book Memorial Stadium for 2014 and 2015 came at a Wednesday night board meeting when permission was given for the club to use the stadium and make certain upgrades such as covering the football lines and bringing the locker rooms up to standard.
“One we’re going to do a bit more work on because obviously we’re going to be there every day,” Harvey said. “And then we’re going to bring the away locker room up to the standard of what we want.”
Because Seattle Public Schools runs the stadium the Reign will not be able to sell alcohol, something they did for three of 11 home matches last season at Starfire.
“Probably within 100 yards you’ve got 10 to 15 bars all around the stadium,” Harvey said. “We’ll be working with some of those local bars to do promotions for Reign fans. We’ll be working hard around the stadium to make sure the fans get the best experience possible. If they can’t sit in their seat and drink a beer then we’re going to make sure everything else they can possibly do is there for them.”
Harvey expects season ticket sales to advance now that a venue has been named and says the club is ahead of where it was a year ago when they were brand new and navigating through the startup process. Then they endured a dreadful 1st half record wise.
“We’ve worked really hard in the offseason to build the squad,” Harvey said. “Since Megan announced (Rapinoe that she would play the entire season with the Reign) there has been a little bit more push in ticket sales. But I think the real momentum will be with Memorial.”
The GM did not give out numbers, but did say they club hopes to eventually have its hand forced to open up the second half of the stands.
“We’d love to obviously,” she said. “We believe that if we have a better season on the field then more people will want to come and watch us play. We saw that towards the end of the season. Our attendance gradually grew as the season went on. We’d love to sell out. And if we’re selling out every week at 6,000 and we think we can push that even bigger we’ll do everything in our power to make that happen. But we understand that we’ve gotta make sure we do our job on the field first. That’s our priority for sure.”
Harvey praised Starfire Stadium but looks forward to being the primary tenant at Memorial during NWSL season. A team with next to no schedule flexibility in 2013 will be one of the most flexible clubs for this season and next.
Another boost with the move to Memorial Stadium is that ease of access using public transportation. Up to 15 bus lines run through Seattle Center, less than half a mile from the stadium.
“It’s basically the hub of where a lot of things go on within the city.”
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