(EDITOR’S NOTE: Unico acquired the asset at the end of 2021 for $100 million).
In a landmark announcement, Seattle Sounders FC today revealed plans for the development of a new state-of-the-art home in Renton, Washington. Located on the site of Boeing’s former corporate headquarters at the historic Longacres, the new home of the Rave Green is set to provide a world-class sporting facility for Major League Soccer’s winningest team over the past decade, housing the club’s entire soccer and business ecosystem for the first time in Sounders FC history.
Known as the Sounders FC Center at Longacres, the club is working in partnership with Seattle-based Unico Properties on the expansive project, with an expected opening in 2024. Inclusive of four full-size training pitches and 50,000 square feet of space for both the club’s soccer operations and front office personnel, the facility ushers in a new era for Sounders FC as the club readies for its 50th anniversary in two years’ time. Since entering MLS in 2009, the club has trained at Starfire Sports in Tukwila. The announcement was revealed earlier today at the club’s new Longacres home in front of assembled media, with representatives from Sounders FC and Unico appearing alongside King County Executive Dow Constantine and Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone.
As part of the club’s March to the 50th – Sounders FC’s official celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2024 – the Rave Green also announced plans to recognize its heritage and vision for the future during today’s proceedings. Sounders FC’s fans are at the heart of everything the club does – from the original naming of the organization to voting on the team’s General Manager every four years – and over the coming weeks, fan outreach is taking place to explore the club’s brand identity with the next 50 years in mind. Fully grounded in the club’s ethos of Democracy in Sports, further details of this process are outlined below.
“Today is one of the most important moments in our club’s history, as we begin this new partnership with Unico Properties and take our first steps into the future of Seattle Sounders FC,” said Sounders FC Majority Owner Adrian Hanauer. “Our organization has invested a great deal of time and thoughtfulness into the process of both selecting the ideal site for a new home and reimagining what that home represents, for our team and the greater community. With Longacres, we’ve found a location brimming with Pacific Northwest history where the Sounders – a team that brings its own deep roots, growing since 1974 – can plant our flag and create a home for our next 50 years. We’re excited to work with terrific partners in Unico and the City of Renton as this project comes to life, and our club fully embraces the stewardship of managing an important historical site like Longacres.”
Hanauer continues, “I would also like to thank Starfire Sports and the City of Tukwila. Sounders FC has always been a community club, and, over the years, that has been exemplified by team’s place at Starfire, a true hub and gathering place for soccer in our region. We’re grateful to Starfire – and the welcoming spirit of Tukwila – for serving as the home of the Rave Green and seeing us through some incredible successes. While the time has come for Sounders FC to move into its own facility, Starfire Sports and Tukwila will always be close to our hearts and a part of our history.”
“We are excited by the opportunity to anchor this storied property with the Seattle Sounders,” said Unico Properties Chief Investment Officer Ned Carner. “We could not be more excited to partner with a group like the Sounders that shares in our mission to create a project that builds up the surrounding community, while also enhancing the lives of the people that choose to live and work at Longacres for years to come.”
DESIGNING THE RAVE GREEN’S FUTURE
As part of the club’s commitment to sustainability within Sounders FC’s Social Justice Framework, best-in-class environmentally friendly building systems and infrastructure are being utilized throughout the Sounders FC Center at Longacres. The design process is headed by Kansas City-based Generator Studio, a leading firm in the sports design and architecture world. Recently, Generator oversaw the creation of the Seattle Kraken’s Community Iceplex in Northgate, in addition to recent projects for the NWSL’s Kansas City Current, the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues of the NHL, along with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
“The Sounders’ legacy and fandom is unequaled in MLS, and our office is ready for the challenge of helping the club elevate what a modern MLS training center means,” said Generator Studio co-founder Tom Proebstle. “The Sounders FC Center at Longacres will provide space for operations and training to be under one roof, bringing players, staff and community together.”
Generator Studio co-founders Proebstle and Mike Kress have been working on Seattle sports venues since 1998, beginning with the design of Lumen Field while at their former architecture firm AECOM. Following their work on Lumen Field, Proebstle and Kress were instrumental in the design and construction of the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks while at Crawford Architects. Since founding Generator Studio, multiple sports projects have culminated in the grand opening of the Kraken Community Iceplex, providing the first sheet of ice in the city of Seattle in modern times.
Central to the combined vision of Sounders FC, Unico and Generator Studio is a team-first design layout that is truly built around the holistic needs of the entire Rave Green organization. In the coming months, further specifics of the design process will be publicly shared, with amenities that showcase Sounders FC’s new home as one of the top sporting facilities in North America, and one that allows for deeper connection with the club’s fans, supporters and partners.
From a location perspective, the Sounders FC Center at Longacres is at the nexus of several Puget Sound major arteries and transit options. Situated at the nexus of the region’s two biggest interstates – I-5 and I-405 – Longacres is 13 miles from Seattle, 13 miles from Bellevue and 24 miles from Tacoma, allowing all Puget Sound residents close proximity to the Rave Green’s new home. Longacres is also adjacent to Sounder Train commuter rail, with the Tukwila station of the region-wide transit network located just a half-mile walk away.
Notably, should Seattle be selected to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the new Sounders FC Center at Longacres would be available as a resource for the globe’s largest sporting event, both as a training site and other related needs.
A UNIQUELY PACIFIC NORTHWEST HISTORY
A notable South End location that has a long and varied history, the site now known as Longacres has spanned all eras of the Puget Sound story. From the origins of the Duwamish people and related Coast Salish groups from time immemorial, to the immigrant farming communities led by Japanese Americans and Filipino Americans that called the area home in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, onto the famous racetrack that produced the location’s moniker and operated from 1933 through 1992, the Longacres site represents all the eras of Puget Sound history. Most recently, aerospace giant Boeing operated the campus as its global headquarters for roughly three decades, concluding its stewardship of the property last year.
For thousands of years, the site of today’s Longacres has been home to the Duwamish, or “the people of the inside,” along with related Coast Salish peoples, whose rich culture was grounded in a sustainable relationship with the abundant natural resources located within the valley. This included village and seasonal sites on the Black, Cedar and Green Rivers, which all merged into the Duwamish and ultimately Puget Sound. Though the courses of these rivers would be changed by human engineering in modern times, the waterways are a key piece of the area’s identity, originally centered upon Duwamish social structures and cultural exchange.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the arable lands near today’s Longacres attracted many settlers, and the area became home to a growing population of Japanese, Filipino, European and other immigrant communities. This trend continued throughout the boom of the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century, and in 1902 the Seattle-Tacoma Interurban Railway was built through the Duwamish Valley south toward Tacoma’s Commencement Bay, leading to increased settlement surrounding Longacres and laying the groundwork for mid-century urbanization.
The Longacres racetrack was a direct result of this expansion, built upon former pasture lands in 1932 during the Great Depression. Operating until the early 1990s, the track was known for its Longacres Mile handicap and majestic views of Tahoma (Mount Rainier). Longacres served as the home of thoroughbred horse racing in Western Washington and, at the time of its closing, was the longest continually operated track on the West Coast. Boeing then purchased the property, which served as the aviation leader’s headquarters for its Commercial Airplanes division from 1995 through 2021.
Sounders FC’s development of a portion of the 150-acre campus provides a new steward for the Longacres site, led by another deeply rooted cultural institution of the Pacific Northwest in the Sounders.
MARCH TO THE 50TH
With 2024 on the horizon, the club is not only opening the Sounders FC Center at Longacres that year, it is also celebrating its 50th anniversary as part of the greater Puget Sound community. A major milestone for the organization, the club’s March to the 50th is intended as a two-year rallying cry for both celebrating that unique history while also casting an eye to the future.
Sounders fans named the original 1974 North American Soccer League team, again choosing the same team name in 2008 prior to the club’s launch in Major League Soccer, winning by an overwhelming majority via write-in option. Since joining MLS, the club has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with its Alliance Members – as Sounders FC season ticket holders are known – working on everything together from the club’s General Manager vote, Alliance Annual Business Meetings and kit designs for the players. This Democracy in Sports ethos runs throughout the entire organization, and as the club prepares for its future and explores its brand and visual identities, Sounders FC is beginning the process of reaching out to its fan base to begin an open dialogue.
“From our club’s perspective, the next 50 years of Sounders history start right now,” said Sounders FC Owner & President of Business Operations Peter Tomozawa. “Our new home at Longacres gives us a generational opportunity to not only invest in the organization by developing the most advanced facilities for our players and operations, but also to deepen our roots and engage with the community in meaningful and new ways. Part of that process includes a thoughtful discussion around our brand identity. Our club is and always will be what our fans say it is. That’s a core part of our club culture and is something we want to emphasize during this process. Fan input is critical to understanding who we are and what we stand for. As we take stock of those conversations, we believe this kind of dialogue will better inform all aspects of Sounders FC. This includes everything from how we represent our community to the team’s physical visual identity, including our marks and club crest.”
An opportunity to connect even deeper with Sounders FC’s distinct heritage, history and traditions, the club is engaging multiple groups in these discussions to determine if they would like to see the club’s brand evolve, and if so, in what ways. This processed includes the following audiences:
- Sounders FC Fans – All past and present Sounders FC fans are invited to take part.
- Alliance Members – Sounders FC Alliance Members, especially Alliance Council, are integral to this process.
- Sounders FC Stakeholders – Current players, former players, Sounders FC staff, in addition to past and present leaders from the organization are being involved in the brand exploration process.
- The Greater Seattle and Washington State Communities – Sounders FC takes immense pride in representing both Puget Sound and the Evergreen State. The club is emblematic of this region and hearing from the greater public is a welcome part of the process.
A target date of 2024 has been set to fully explore the findings and better connect the club’s rich past to its lofty future. The process is spearheaded by Sounders FC’s Marketing and Brand groups, led by Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer Taylor Graham, with the involvement of several blue-chip brand and design agencies.
ABOUT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
Winner of the 2019 and 2016 MLS Cups, 2014 MLS Supporters’ Shield and four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championships (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014), Sounders FC is Seattle’s Major League Soccer franchise. The club received an MLS charter on November 13, 2007 and has set a league record by qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs in every year of its existence. Sounders FC reached a milestone in 2016 as the franchise claimed its first MLS Cup championship, before earning its second title in 2019, hoisting the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy in front of a home crowd of 69,274 fans. Since the club’s debut MLS season in 2009, Sounders FC has set the standard for soccer support in North America, leading the league in attendance for eight consecutive seasons (2009-2016) and routinely ranking in the top 30 in attendance among all professional teams internationally. Prior to joining MLS, the Seattle Sounders organization has been a part of the greater Seattle community and U.S. Soccer professional scene since 1974.
ABOUT UNICO PROPERTIES
Unico Properties LLC is a Seattle-based commercial real estate investor, developer and full-service operator focused on office and multifamily assets in emerging markets throughout the United States. Founded in 1953, Unico has been transforming the built environment by creating innovative, people-focused building experiences through a cadre of subsidiary companies that deliver boutique expertise and institutional execution for its own accounts and select third-party clients. The private equity real estate investment firm currently owns and operates 18 million square feet of commercial properties across the United States and continues to grow.
ABOUT GENERATOR STUDIO
Generator Studio is a comprehensive design firm of architects, designers and artists who bring hospitality design thinking to a diverse portfolio of work in sports and entertainment, hotels and resorts and commercial lifestyle developments. With a customer-centric approach, design aims to create memorable sensory experiences and a sense of belonging while creating long-term value for client-owners. Balancing luxury with functionality, connecting story and place, and designing for lasting impressions form the studio’s design philosophy.
Generator has been named a Best Employer in Sports by Front Office Sports and to Architizer’s Global Design Firms to Watch list. Recent clients include the Seattle Kraken, KC Current, Brooklyn Nets, Live Nation and Pacifica Hotels.