Tacoma is getting a new soccer team. And its other team is getting a new name and look.
In a press conference Wednesday, the Seattle Reign FC announced it is moving its home games to Cheney Stadium for the 2019 season. Reign FC — as it will be known now, minus Seattle — is one of the eight inaugural members of the National Women’s Soccer League, which was founded in 2012. The schedule is expected to be released in early February.
“Can you believe that right here in Tacoma, we’re getting a professional women’s soccer team!” Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards said.
“Let’s be frank with one another, women haven’t got the most investments in sports. Here in Tacoma, we’re going to get it right and not just in the sport, the women who play the sport. They deserve to play on fields and spaces that are just as good as the ones the men play on.”
Also, Sounders FC 2 is now the Tacoma Defiance. The United States League team, which acts as the reserve squad for the Seattle Sounders, spent its first season in Cheney Stadium last year and promised a re-brand last fall. Over 1,000 suggestions for a new name were sent to the team, Rainiers president Aaron Artman said.
The Defiance announced its first-ever jersey front partner: Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System. As part of their makeover, the team is changing its primary colors to black and white. The partnership between the soccer clubs and the Tacoma-based healthcare organization will include a 60,000 square-foot facility that will provide medical care to the team and the general public on the site where a proposed soccer stadium will be built.
“We’re excited that this 60,000 square-foot facility will be integrated into the new stadium,” MultiCare president Bill Robertson said. “So as you’re rehabbing you’ll be doing it while looking out at the new stadium so we’re excited about that.”
The group operating the Rainiers and Defiance – led by Mikal Thomsen, Chairman and CEO of the Tacoma Rainiers – is taking a significant minority ownership stake in the Reign FC. In addition, Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer and his mother, Lenore Hanauer, are also making a separate minority investment.
The Seattle Reign franchise
Reign FC — which features forward Megan Rapinoe, a co-captain of the United States Women’s National Team — previously played in Seattle’s Memorial Stadium. It twice won the NWSL Shield, given to the team with the best regular season record (2014, 2015) and advanced to back-to-back NWSL championship games following those seasons.
The Reign averaged just over 3,800 fans per game at Memorial Stadium last season, according to The Seattle Times. It was the first time the team was under 4,000 fans per game since 2014. The declining attendance, the aging facility and the restrictions on being able to sell alcohol at the stadium were factors in the move.
“It is a massive, massive opportunity for our club,” Reign FC owner Bill Predmore said. “We’ve built a passionate fan base and I want to ask them to make that journey down to Tacoma. And can promise them that their experience will be exponentially than what we were able to deliver in Seattle.”
Predmore noted upgraded concessions, seats without splinters and new bathrooms at Cheney Stadium would be improvements from Memorial Stadium. As Predmore explained how hamstrung they were playing in a stadium that opened in 1947, Rapinoe interrupted him, pointing out another advantage of Cheney Stadium, which was remodeled in 2011:
“And there’s beer,” Rapinoe said.
“Beer helps,” Rapinoe said, also noting that playing on Tacoma’s grass instead of Seattle’s turf would be a benefit, too. The club also announced it would practice on the fields at adjoining Foss High School.
But Cheney Stadium is not the long-term home for Tacoma’s two soccer teams.
A feasibility study for a 5,000-seat soccer stadium in central Tacoma on the Cheney Stadium footprint could be done as soon as the next few weeks, said Aaron Pointer, president of Metro Parks Tacoma.
Pointer, a long-time resident of the city, said that today’s announcement brought back memories as a new era in Tacoma sports begins.
“The excitement of what will happen in and around Cheney Stadium brings a lot of memories back to me,” Pointer said. “I’m sure the soccer teams are going to have just as much excitement as we had in 1969 winning a championship here in Tacoma.”