Seattle Sounders FC shed its “training wheels” Thursday, announcing that its business operations will become independent of the Seattle Seahawks starting April 30.
The teams have shared business operations since Seattle was admitted into Major League Soccer in 2007.
“I think the organization is very capable of standing on its own two feet,” said Adrian Hanauer, Sounders general manager and minority owner. “I’ve used the phase ‘taking the training wheels off.’ ... Our fans should not lose anything. (Sounders FC) can dream big dreams about where the brand goes from here.”
The Sounders already have approximately 40 of their own business employees at the Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. However, there is a leadership group of top executives who divide time between NFL and MLS teams. The “big benefit” cited by Hanauer is those leaders will become free to concentrate exclusively on one team or the other.
Seahawks owner Paul Allen will retain his minority ownership of the Sounders. However, Peter McLoughlin, who has been president of the Seahawks and Sounders, will surrender his soccer responsibilities.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for (Sounders majority owner Joe Roth, Hanauer and minority owner Drew Carey),” McLoughlin said in a news release. “The Sounders will continue to be part of our family as we share CenturyLink Field and will work together on mutually beneficial projects.”
There was no announcement of who will become Sounders president. However, Hanauer said he could assume that title in addition to his general manager responsibilities.
“I’ve got enough great people around me where I think I could take on the role on the business side and still keep my eyes squarely on the team side of things,” Hanauer said. “But those are things we’ll decide over the next 45 days to beyond.”
The Sounders will move their business offices from the VMAC to Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle. Team operations and practice facilities will remain at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
The team also will continue to play at CenturyLink Field. Hanauer said Sounders FC has a five-year lease at the stadium and is negotiating to extend that lease.
Some of the big dreams Hanauer mentioned include increasing average home attendance from 44,000 to 50,000 and beyond; better use of technology and social media to engage fans; improving the game-day stadium experience; increased use of sports science and technology for the athletes; launching a USL-Pro reserve team; and improving the Sounders’ facilities at Starfire.