Seattle Sounders Guarantee More Ugly Turf, Extend Lease at CenturyLink Field

Happy Paddy’s Day Sounders fans.

DSC06841In non-losing-to-the-stupid-Earthquakes news, Seattle Sounders FC finalized an extension of their lease/partnership with First and Goal Inc., Paul Allen’s managing organization of CenturyLink field, through 2028. The current deal had 2 more years left but Adrian and co. decided now was a fine time to renew their vows.

I am glad that the Sounders aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If some pie in the sky soccer specific stadium was built, it would end up on the East Side or Renton. I love the stadium’s downtown location. When you’re standing on the highest concourse and can see Elliot Bay, the port and skyline, it is a thing a beauty. Soccer taking place in the heart of an American city. Soccer not relegated to the suburbs or undercard, but soccer as it is almost everywhere else, king.

Location aside, the turf is a problem. We are in the fourth year of the same turf at CLink (it was last replaced in 2012) and it shows. The terms of the new agreement are loose, but it’s being reported that the turf will be replaced every four years, if not sooner. Knowing First and Goal, I doubt we’ll ever see the sooner. Adrian said he had to make some concessions, but this one seems THE sticking point (at least for us Sounders partisans). Four years is not good enough because then we’re doomed to always be settling for this choppy, disgusting pitch.

The turf this year is gross. In just two games, and maybe this is a form of selection bias and I am just seeing what I want to see, it seems the turf monster is alive and well in Sodo. At the center stripe near the eastern touchline, the field is really chewed, black and ugly. I saw it on tv last week and in person on Saturday. The monster lurks especially there. More than a few times Pappa and Oba tripped up at that exact spot. Each time I looked, startled, to see if they were knocked or if it was an “away from the ball” spill. All the Thierry Henry histrionics aside, bad turfs ends careers.

I am especially sensitive to piss-poor fields being a Philadelphia Eagles fan. Veterans Stadium in the 80s, aside from being a drunken cesspool of the dark side of fandom, had disgusting AstroTurf. Many careers did end at the Vet, and all did with the dreaded “away from the ball” type fall. I know FieldTurf is so far removed from AstroTurf as to almost make this argument moot. However. Four years of round-the-calendar athletic competitions, plus the Seahawks now regularly going deep into the playoffs has turned the turf to nadda.

I am all for the civic usefulness of CenturyLink Field. As a citizen who subsidized this stadium, I am getting a lot of bang for my buck: Sounders March to November and Seahawks August to January. In a purely sports-related world, I am cool with the Sounders sharing with the Hawks. However. First and Goal exists to please the Seahawks first, other tenets (Quidditch!) second and the Sounders… oh… somewhere about last. Maybe I am too much of a Sounders junkie to not see reality distorted through my Rave Green glasses, but the Sounders are no also-rans. They are a dominant, if not the dominant franchise in MLS. The Sounders are a North American professional sports power player, and yet, with the little leverage it seemed Adrian had at the bargaining table, First and Goal doesn’t acknowledge that.

Joe, Adrian and Drew want the Sounders to be the class of the league: signing international talent, selling international talent, winning cups and playing the beautiful game. But our field looks like crap. We can show a potential signing our record, our coach, our trophy case, the city’s soccer culture and the downtown stadium. But the second he sees chewed up plastic grass, it all comes crashing down. The Sounders don’t control their own destiny. We must ask and beg and settle for what the Seahawks allow.

Seattle plays precise, aggressive soccer. We need the ball to stick to our feet and bounce right. FieldTurf will never be grass and that hurts the home team. FieldTurf can be an excellent and economical alternative to natural grass, but not after four years. Not with the Seahawks logo still visible.

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