If you like the Tacoma-to-Seattle express lane for baseball, another lane is being added to the fray.
In an unprecedented move between two different professional sports organizations, the Seattle Sounders and Tacoma Rainiers have agreed to become partners in the management of the Sounders’ developmental franchise – the Sounders 2.
That means the Sounders 2, who compete in the second-tier United Soccer League, will play their home matches at a not-yet-built 5,000-person stadium next to Cheney Stadium, where the Rainiers play their home baseball games.
“It is an honor that (the Sounders) want to work with us, and believe in our city and our franchise,” Rainiers president Aaron Artman said.
The news of the partnership was first reported by ESPN during halftime of the nationally-televised Sounders-Toronto FC MLS match Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders 2 were founded in 2014, and started play in the USL for the 2015 season. They currently train and play their home matches at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
But a rumored move to Tacoma surfaced more than a year ago when the two organizations showed mutual interest in relocating the Sounders 2 to a more isolated market outside the shadow of the MLS club.
The primary sticking point was where to play: Cheney Stadium was not deemed a suitable venue. Building a new soccer-specific facility became clearly the preferable option.
Artman said the next step is for the Rainiers to jointly work with the city of Tacoma, Metro Parks and Tacoma Public Schools on not only the best location for a new stadium, but how it will be funded.
“In our mind, it is really a community process,” Artman said.
Artman estimated a best-case scenario to when the Sounders 2 – or whatever the franchise will be renamed with a Tacoma moniker attached to it – would be playing in its new home is 2020.
The Sounders 2 would continue to train daily at Starfire, even after their relocation to Tacoma is completed.
“Partnering with the Rainiers to provide a first-class matchday atmosphere for our USL team is going to be very beneficial in developing our players,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “For the Rainiers to be able to utilize their business expertise in the Tacoma region and for us to retain technical control of the soccer side is an ideal fit for what we want to do with our USL team.”