Qwest Field: Wikis

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Qwest Field
The interior of a stadium from the upper tier behind the south end zone during the day. The end zones and seating sections are colored blue. At the north end is a smaller seating area at the base of a tower. Several high-rise office buildings are in the distance.
Former names Seahawks Stadium (2002–2004)
Location 800 Occidental Avenue S.
Seattle, Washington 98134
USA
Coordinates 47°35′43″N 122°19′54″W / 47.59528°N 122.33167°W / 47.59528; -122.33167Coordinates: 47°35′43″N 122°19′54″W / 47.59528°N 122.33167°W / 47.59528; -122.33167
Broke ground April 2000
Opened July 28, 2002
Owner Washington State Public Stadium Authority
Operator First & Goal Inc.
Surface FieldTurf
Scoreboard 84 ft × 24 ft (26 m × 7.3 m)
44 ft × 50 ft (13 m × 15 m)
Construction cost $430 million (entire complex)
Architect Ellerbe Becket
Structural engineer Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire
General Contractor Turner Construction Company
Capacity 67,000 (NFL) (expandable to 72,000 for special events)
35,700 (MLS) (expandable to 67,000 for special events)
Field dimensions Football: 120 yd × 55.3 yd
(109.7 m × 50.6 m)
Soccer: 114 yd × 74 yd
(104.2 m × 67.7 m)
Tenants
Seattle Seahawks (NFL) (2002–present)
Seattle Sounders (USL 1) (2003–2007)
Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) (2009–present)

Qwest Field (pronounced /ˈkwɛst/) is a multi-purpose stadium in Seattle, Washington, United States. It serves as the home field for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL) and Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer (MLS). It was originally called Seahawks Stadium, but was renamed in June 2004 when the telecommunications carrier Qwest acquired naming rights. The complex also includes the Event Center with the WaMu Theater, a parking garage, and a public plaza. Along with sporting events, the venue hosts concerts, trade shows, and consumer shows. Located within a mile (1.6 km) of Seattle's central business district, the venue is accessible by multiple freeways and forms of mass transit.

The stadium was built between 2000 and 2002 after voters approved funding for the construction in a statewide election held on June 17, 1997. This vote created the Washington State Public Stadium Authority to oversee public ownership of the venue. The owner of the Seahawks, Paul Allen, formed First & Goal Inc. to develop and operate the new facilities. Allen was closely involved in the design process, and he emphasized the importance of an open-air venue with an intimate atmosphere. The stadium is a modern facility with views of the nearby Seattle area. It can seat 67,000 people.

The crowd at Qwest Field is notoriously loud during Seahawks games. The noise has contributed to the team's home field advantage with an increase in false start (movement by an offensive player prior to the play) penalties against visiting teams.[1] The stadium was the first in the NFL to implement a FieldTurf artificial field. Numerous college and high school American football games have also been played at the stadium.

Qwest Field was also designed for soccer; the first sporting event held was a United Soccer Leagues (USL) Seattle Sounders match. The USL team began regularly using the stadium for home games in 2003. The local MLS expansion team, Seattle Sounders FC, began its inaugural season in 2009 at the stadium. Qwest Field was the site of the MLS Cup in 2009.

Contents

Funding

The Seahawks played their home games at the Kingdome from their inaugural season in 1976 to the 1999 season.[2] In 1995, a proposal was made to issue county bonds to fund a remodeling project of the facility. The proposal failed, and as a result, Seahawks' owner Ken Behring threatened to sell or move the team. In 1997, local billionaire Paul Allen pledged to acquire the team if a new stadium could be built. Allen said that the team could not be profitable until they left the Kingdome, and he asked the state legislature to hold a special statewide referendum on a proposal to finance a new stadium.[3][4] With Allen agreeing to pay the $4 million cost, the legislature agreed. The vote was scheduled to be held in June 1997, but in May, a Seattle resident filed a lawsuit that claimed the legislature did not have authority to call for such a vote, since it would be paid for by a private party who could gain from the result. The case was delayed until after the vote.[5] The proposal was pitched to voters as providing both a new home for the Seahawks and a venue for top-level soccer. It passed on June 17, 1997,[6] with 820,364 (51.1%) in favor and 783,584 against.[5][7] The vote was close in Seattle, but it received 60% approval in Seattle's northern and eastern suburbs. The public funding was unpopular farther away in the eastern portion of the state.[8] In October, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that the legislature acted properly and in the public's interest, and he dismissed the pending lawsuit. The Washington Supreme Court upheld the decision that December.[5][9]

The vote created a public–private partnership.[6] The Washington State Public Stadium Authority was created to oversee public ownership of the stadium, exhibition center, and parking garage complex. Allen purchased the Seahawks and formed First & Goal Inc. to build and operate the facility. The budget for the project was $430 million. Of this cost, $44 million was allotted to build the Event Center, $26 million for the parking garage, and $360 million for the stadium. First & Goal was to pay up to $130 million of the project while the contribution from the public was capped at $360 million.[10]

A gate in front of stairs leading into a stadium. A steel tower and the roof's trusses are prominent.
The north gate of the stadium

The public funding package included new sports-related state lottery games, taxes on the facility's admissions and parking, sales tax credits and deferrals, and an eight-year extension of the two percent tax on hotel rooms in King County.[11] The taxes on admissions and parking are set at two percent to pay off the project's tax-exempt bonds. Those taxes will be kept below the authorized ten percent to preserve the tax-exempt status, but the percentage will be increased to the full amount when the bonds are completely paid in 2021. At that time, they will become dedicated funding sources for maintenance and modernization of the facilities.[10]

In September 1998, First & Goal signed a lease that runs 30 years and includes options to extend for another 20.[12] Per the agreement, the Public Stadium Authority receives $850,000 a year (adjusted for inflation), and First & Goal keeps all revenue from the stadium and parking garage. The company receives 80% of the revenue from the exhibition center while the other twenty percent is allotted to a state education fund. First & Goal is responsible for all operating and maintenance costs, expected to be $6 million a year, and must keep the facility in "first-class" condition. Other details of the lease include the availability of affordable seats, a coordinated effort with neighboring Safeco Field to prevent gridlock, a provision for naming rights, the investment in public art at the stadium, and the giveaway of a luxury suite to a fan each Seahawks' game.[12]

Construction and layout

A stadium under construction with two cranes positioned where the field will eventually be installed. The terraced seating sections rise above the partially complete concourse levels, and half of the roof is in place.
The stadium under construction in 2001

The architectural firm Ellerbe Becket, in association with Loschky Marquardt & Nesholm Architects of Seattle, designed the 1,500,000 sq ft (140,000 m2) project. Allen was closely involved during the process. While growing up, he had attended games at the University of Washington's outdoor Husky Stadium. His goal was to create a similar experience and atmosphere at the new venue.[13][14] The exhibition center portion of the project was designed over a period of 14 months by Loschky Marquardt & Nesholm Architects.[15] First & Goal managed the construction.[16] Town meetings were held to discuss the impact on the public, and the company created a $6 million mitigation fund for nearby neighborhoods.[17] Contracts totaling $81 million were awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses. Apprentices made up 19% of the workforce through another program the building team established with local trade unions.[18]

In September 1998, construction began on the new exhibition center and parking garage. By October 1999, the exhibition center was open and hosting events.[15] On March 26, 2000, to make way for the stadium, the Kingdome was demolished in the world's largest implosion of a single concrete structure.[19] Almost all of the Kingdome rubble was recycled with roughly half used for the new stadium. The complex designers were challenged by the soft soil at the site since it was a tidal marsh until public works projects in the early 20th century adjusted the waterline of nearby Elliot Bay. The top layer is a soft fill taken from the grading projects that had leveled portions of Seattle's hills. To account for the soft soil, the complex sits on over 2,200 pilings driven 50 ft (15 m) to 70 ft (21 m) below the ground to form what is essentially a pier for the foundation.[20] The soil concerns, temperature effects, and the potential for earthquakes required the stadium to be built in eight connected sections.[21] The adjoining exhibition center and parking garage are separate structures and not part of the eight-section stadium.[21]

The stadium from the air on a clear day. SEAHAWKS STADIUM is painted on the white partial roof. The stadium is surrounded by roads and buildings.
The stadium after completion in 2002

The site is the smallest of those developed for new NFL stadiums.[22] The upper levels were cantilevered over the lower sections to fit within the limited space. This, along with the angle of seats and the placement of the lower sections closer to the field, provided a better view of the field than typically seen throughout the country and allowed for a 67,000 seat capacity.[23] Space is available to increase the total capacity to 72,000 for special events. Included in the capacity are 111 suites and over 7,000 club seats. The stadium has 1,400 seats for those with disabilities and their companions located in various sections.[23] As of 2009, Qwest Field ranks 21st out of the 31 stadiums in the NFL for total seating capacity.[24]

The configuration of Qwest Field is a U-shape with an open north end. This provides views of downtown Seattle and the complex's large north plaza. The opposite end of the stadium was also left partially open. The large retractable roof of Safeco Field along with Mount Rainier to the southeast can be seen.[22] The stadium's concourses were built to be wide, and they provide additional views of the surrounding area.[25] A 13-story tower was erected at the north end of the stadium. The designers intended for the structure to visually compliment the Seattle skyline.[26] The tower features a vertically oriented scoreboard at the top and bleacher seating for 3,000, called the "Hawks' Nest", at the base. The vertical display is the first of its kind in the NFL. Another addition not previously seen in the NFL are field-level luxury suits located directly behind the north end zone.[22]

Two stadiums in an industrial area. Both have roofs with large arched trusses.
The roofs of Qwest Field and Safeco Field

During the early stages of the design, Allen rejected plans for a retractable roof. The lack of a retractable roof made the stadium open to the elements, provided better views, and reduced the total cost of the project.[22] The roof, at 200,000 sq ft (19,000 m2),[27] covers 70% of the seats but leaves the field open.[18] The roof spans 720 ft (220 m) between concrete pylon supports at the north and south ends of the stadium. Its two expansive sections are held from below by trusses.[28] From above, two arches with additional supports rise 200 ft (61 m) over the field.[27] Post-tensioned cables were used to achieve its final shape and positioning.[29] To minimize damage in the event of an earthquake, the roof has a friction pendulum damper system. This disconnects the roof from the support pylons so that it can move independently of the structure. The technology had never been applied to a large-scale roof before Qwest Field.[21]

The roof was painted white to aesthetically distinguish it from both Safeco Field and the nearby industrial area.[26] The east side of the stadium has a large glass curtain wall that faces the nearby International District. The exterior of the stadium also consists of salmon colored concrete, and the west side of the structure is partially clad with red brick. The coloring and facade were designed so the stadium would blend with the older buildings in neighboring Pioneer Square. To reduce costs, the exterior was not completed with brick or ornate steel work.[22]

A 6.8 Mw earthquake struck the Seattle area during construction. The structure reacted as expected by the designers, and there was minimal damage.[29] The project was completed on budget and a month ahead of schedule.[28]

Surface

A ceremony with a red carpet inside of a stadium. A tower with a screen displays "Golden Scarf".
The north end of the stadium prior to a soccer match on FieldTurf

In 2002 Qwest Field was the first stadium in the NFL to install a FieldTurf artificial field.[13] This surface is made of plastic fibers rooted in a mixture of ground rubber and sand.[30] The field was replaced in the spring of 2008 because tests showed that compression of the sand and rubber increased the risk of player injuries. FieldTurf won the bid for the second installation over Polytan. For the replacement surface, a one inch (two and one half centimeters) poured rubber foundation was added to prevent the compression from reoccurring. Under the naming rights agreement, Qwest paid $500,000 for the surface installation and First & Goal paid the remaining amount, which was undisclosed.[31]

The 1997 state referendum claimed the stadium would "feature a natural grass surface",[32] but FieldTurf was not an option when the stadium was originally presented to voters. Seahawks management reconsidered the type of surface after the Seahawks played on FieldTurf at Husky Stadium during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Artificial turf was installed because it was easier to maintain than natural grass. The potential damage to a natural grass field caused by Seattle's frequent rain also made the surface an appropriate option.[22] In order to keep a grass surface robust under heavy football use during late fall and early winter rains, a $1.8 million irrigation and heating system would have been required.[30] The coach of the Seahawks, Mike Holmgren, said at the time that the FieldTurf installation was the right decision and stated that "the players love it, and I think this surface will offer a better product on the field for the fans."[33]

Local soccer fans were concerned that the lack of a natural grass surface would hinder Seattle's chances of receiving an MLS expansion franchise.[30] They asserted that voters had approved the facility with the understanding that the new stadium was intended for soccer as well as football.[33] In a compromise, First & Goal agreed to pay for grass to be installed for special events when needed.[31]

There have been various opinions on both the artificial surface and temporary grass surface used for soccer matches. After the Brazilian national team defeated Canada's side 3–2 in 2008, Brazi's coach commented that one reason for his team's unexpectedly poor performance was the loosely installed grass field.[34] The Grenada national team struggled to cope with the artificial surface during their loss at the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup.[35] Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said that the FieldTurf would not prevent Qwest Field from hosting a World Cup match if the country is chosen to host the finals tournament in 2018 or 2022.[36] In July 2009, the federation chose D.C. United's RFK Stadium over Qwest Field for the U.S. Open Cup. The general manager of D.C. United speculated that RFK's grass field was one of the reasons his team had a stronger bid.[37]

Between August and November, both the Seahawks and Sounders FC host games at Qwest Field. Each team has emphasized the importance of playing their games without the other team's painted lines on the field. After a Sounders FC match in 2009, the grounds crew was able to redo the markings for the Seahawks within two days.[38]

American football

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Seahawks

A stadium filled with spectators with two football teams on the field between a play.
A 2006 Seahawks' game seen from the 300 level

Prior to the stadium opening in 2002, Allen and Bob Whitsitt said that they hoped the new stadium would help turn the Seahawks into a Super Bowl contender and that Seattle would be considered to host a Super Bowl.[13] The team's first season at their new home was in 2002. Their first game at the new facility was a 28–10 preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts on August 11, 2002.[39] They went on to end their first season at the new field with a 7–9 record. In the 2003 season, the team went undefeated at the stadium and reached the playoffs. It was the first time the franchise had won 10 games in a single season in 17 years.[40] The Seahawks again reached the postseason during the 2004 season and played their first playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8, 2005. In that game, they lost to the St. Louis Rams who had already defeated them twice that season.[41] The following season, the Seahawks went undefeated at home for the second time in three years and won their first-ever NFC Championship,[42] but they lost in Super Bowl XL. Between 2002 and 2005, the Seahawks won 24 of their 32 regular season games at the stadium.[43]

In 2006 the Seahawks had a 9–7 record and hosted the Dallas Cowboys in the wild card round of the playoffs.[44] The Seahawks trailed 20–13 with less than seven minutes remaining but came back to win 21–20.[45] In 2007, the team won seven of their eight home games and clinched their fourth consecutive division title.[46] Qwest Field was again the site for their wild card game, and they defeated the Washington Redskins 35–14.[47] In 2008, the Seahawks went 4–12 and had only two home wins. Holmgren left the organization after the season.[48] When he was interviewed about memorable moments and the fans, he said that Qwest Field was "a remarkable place to compete in and to play professional football."[49] He called a game at the stadium "an experience."[49]

Qwest Field continuously sells out for Seahawks games.[50] Although the team has struggled in 2008 and 2009, the team has maintained its base of 61,000 season ticket holders.[51] Before the 2008 season, the 14,000 single game tickets not already allotted sold out less than 15 minutes after they became available.[52] The largest crowd to attend a Seahawks game at Qwest Field was 68,331 on November 12, 2007, against the San Francisco 49ers.[53]

Home field advantage

Qwest Field has earned a reputation for being the loudest stadium in the NFL.[1][54] The seating decks and partial roof direct exceptional amounts of crowd noise onto the field.[55] The most vocal fans sit in the north end zone bleachers and their sound is amplified by the metal bleachers.[56] This noise leads to one of the best home field advantages in the league because it contributes to increased false start penalties since opposing offenses can miss audibles and the snap count.[43][56]

A blue flag with a white number 12 flies against a clear sky. An expansive white roof truss is behind the flagpole.
The 12th Man flag and a portion of the roof's support truss

When Tod Leiweke was hired as the Seahawks' new CEO in 2003, he had a large flagpole installed in the south end to fly a flag showing a white number 12 on a blue background as a tribute to the fans. Seahawks fans already had a reputation for being among the most vociferous in the NFL when they played in the Kingdome.[57] The organization had retired the number in 1984 to honor the fans and the flag salutes them as the "12th man".[58] A local celebrity, sometimes a former Seahawk, raises the flag during the network television pre-game events. Origins of the 12th man term are not clear, but its use has been a decades-long tradition for several sports teams. In 2006, the Seahawks reached a settlement on a lawsuit filed by Texas A&M University, which had previously trademarked the phrase for its football program. The deal did not result in any changes at the stadium.[59]

In 2005, the stadium gained national attention when the visiting New York Giants committed 11 false start penalties.[56][60] Holmgren attributed the penalties to the enthusiasm and noise from the crowd. He dedicated the ball used to make the game-winning field goal to the fans, and it is now displayed at the stadium.[57] After the Giants' lost in 2005 at Qwest Field, their general manager, Ernie Accorsi, complained to an NFL senior vice president about the possibility that the Seahawks broadcasted artificial crowd over the public address system.[61] The NFL sent a memorandum early in the 2006 season about such complaints and sent officials to monitor two games.[55] Holmgren denied the allegations, and the crowd responded by being even louder than usual when the Giants returned to Qwest Field.[61][62]

In preparation for 2005–06 NFC Championship Game at Qwest Field, the Carolina Panthers practiced with the recorded sounds of jet engines in the background.[63] The Fox Sports telecast producers measured the crowd noise level at a peak of 137 dB during Seattles 34–14 win.[64][65] Since 2005, the Seahawks have tracked the number of false starts committed by visiting teams and display the statistic on a scoreboard to motivate the crowd. Crowd noise contributed to a league-high 24 false-start penalties in 2005 alone.[59][66]

Visiting kickers experience further disadvantages when attempting field goals at Qwest Field. Both the stadium's proximity to the Puget Sound and the open north end create winds that are challenging to gauge.[56] Former Seahawks' kicker Josh Brown adjusted to the winds, and he believed the moisture in the air caused trouble for others.[67]

College

In an American football game, a runner with the ball faces a defender while a blocker locks with another defensive player.
The University of Washington against the United States Air Force Academy in 2005

Qwest Field has hosted several college football games. The hometown Washington Huskies played their 2005 season opener against the Air Force Falcons at the stadium in Tyrone Willingham's first game as head coach.[68][69] The university may upgrade Husky Stadium in the future, and the Seahawks have told the school that they can play their football games at Qwest Field if needed.[70]

The stadium hosted a Washington State Cougars non-conference home game each season between 2002 and 2009. This included the 86th "Battle of the Palouse" against the Idaho Vandals in 2003.[71] The Cougars won five of the eight games and their crowds ranged from 42,912 to 63,588.[72][73] Qwest Field is about 300 miles (483 km) from the university, but the team has indicated that these games and related events could possibly continue in the future.[72] The university's athletic director has announced that the Cougars will return in 2011. In the announcement, he said that 50,000 need to attend to make it worth moving the game from Pullman.[74]

In April 2009, it was proposed that the annual Apple Cup between the Seattle-based Huskies and the Pullman-based Cougars be hosted at Qwest Field for six years beginning in 2010. The two programs could not reach an agreement on how to divide tickets. Pullman's business community had expressed concerns that playing the game away from the area would be detrimental to the local economy.[75]

Qwest Field hosted the 2002 Seattle Bowl in which Wake Forest beat Oregon 38–17.[76] The inaugural Seattle Bowl was played a year earlier at Safeco Field, but the game was discontinued when organizers could not secure financing before 2003. Later attempts to revive the Seattle Bowl were unsuccessful.[77] The Seattle Sports Commission is pushing for a proposal of a new bowl game. In 2008, a business plan was begun for a game in 2010 that would be a fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital.[78]

Lower division NCAA teams have played at the stadium throughout the years. From 2003 to 2008, the NCAA Division II football teams from Western Washington University and Central Washington University met each year in a rivalry game called "The Battle in Seattle". Central won all but the 2004 game, and each meeting attracted more than 11,000 people.[79] Western discontinued its football program after the 2008 season, but Central came to an agreement to continue the series with Western Oregon University for games in 2009 and 2010. "Battle in Seattle VII" saw Central make a comeback to win 23–21 in front of 5,374.[80]

On October 31, 2009, the Division I Eastern Washington University Eagles played a home game in Seattle for the first time. Along with the goal of drawing alumni from the metropolitan area, the athletic directors from both Eastern Washington and Washington State had expressed the importance of connecting with alumni at receptions and other events on the western side of the state.[72][81] Billed as the "Showdown on the Sound", the game was a 47–10 victory over the Portland State Vikings.[82][83] According to Eastern's athletic director, Qwest Field's rental was $50,000 for the day.[84]

High school

Qwest Field has been used for high school football. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association puts on the annual Emerald City Kickoff Classic at the stadium. The event is a season-opening series of games between some of the best teams in the state.[85]

The stadium features a meeting between one of the best teams in Washington and one of the best from another state in the "Best of the West" game. On September 4, 2004, Washington's Bellevue High School and California's De La Salle High School played in front of over 25,000, a state high school event attendance record. Bellevue ended De La Salle's national-record 151-game winning streak in a 39–20 win.[86] On September 16, 2009, Bellevue defeated another highly regarded California school at Qwest Field in a 30–16 victory over Long Beach Polytechnic. USA Today had recently rated both teams highly with Long Beach third and Bellevue at sixteenth in the nation.[87]

After the organizer of the event announced a match up between Washington's Skyline High School and Oregon's Jesuit High School in 2009, he said that he proposed the possibility of televising games to Fox Sports, but Fox did not televise the game.[88] Skyline went on to shutout Jesuit 17–0 during that year's Emerald City Classic.[89]

Within Qwest Field, there is a large art piece called The State of Football that pays tribute to high school football in the State of Washington. The piece features a depiction of the State of Washington and holds replica football helmets from every high school football team in the state. The art is part of the nearly $1.75 million Stadium Art Program commissioned through First & Goal's lease of the facility.[12]

Soccer

Half the field of a soccer game. The surrounding stands are filled with people.
Sounders FC hosting Barcelona in 2009

Qwest Field was also designed for soccer.[13] The stadium meets FIFA sight line requirements and provides separate locker rooms for soccer teams. Camera locations were chosen for optimal television coverage of the sport.[90]

Numerous exhibition games have taken place at Qwest Field. These games have included high-profile clubs such as Manchester United, Barcelona, Celtic, Real Madrid, and Chelsea. National teams such as Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and China have played exhibition games at the stadium. The artificial turf has been temporarily overlayed with grass for international matches.[30][91]

Qwest Field was the site of the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B opening round between the national teams of the United States, Costa Rica, Canada, and Cuba. Two matches of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup opening round were also played at the stadium on July 4, 2009. The United States had a comfortable victory over Grenada, who were playing in their first major international competition, 4–0.[35] The success of such tournaments has bolstered Seattle's bid to host games for other competitions, and Qwest Field is among the 58 facilities in the United States being considered for World Cup matches if the country hosts the tournament in 2018 or 2022.[92] When discussing Seattle as a candidate, Sunil Gulati of the U.S. Soccer Federation called Qwest Field "a world-class facility."[36]

On November 22, 2009, Seattle was the site of the 14th annual MLS Cup between Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy, where Salt Lake won the Cup on penalty kicks (5–4) in front of 46,011.[93][94] Qwest Field was the eighth stadium to host the event.[95]

Sounders (USL)

On July 28, 2002, the Seattle Sounders of the USL defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 4–1 in front of 25,515 in the first sporting-event at the stadium. The USL team began using the facility regularly as their home field in 2003. Although team management was concerned with the high rent and the underused seating capacity, they were drawn by the sponsorship opportunities and location. The Sounders increased their average attendance from 2,583 at Seattle's Memorial Stadium in 2002 to 3,452 at the new stadium in 2003.[96] In 2005, the Sounders beat the Richmond Kickers 2–1 in a penalty shootout for the USL championship in front of 8,011. Scott Jenkins scored the final goal and announced his retirement after the game.[97]

In 2008, the MLS expansion franchise Sounders FC decided to develop the Starfire Sports Complex in nearby Tukwila, and the USL team played most of the season at that facility. At the time, team management thought that practicing and playing at Starfire could provide a better transition for those hoping to play for the new MLS team.[98] The last match for the USL Sounders at Qwest Field was the 2008 season opener against the rival Portland Timbers. The game ended in a scoreless draw in front of 10,184.[99]

Sounders FC

A stand of a stadium with fans holding a large banner depicting the Space Needle. Green and blue flags wave throughout the stand and the flags of different nations are held by people on the field.
The south end of the stadium before the Sounders FC inaugural match

The potential to draw an MLS expansion team helped drive public support for building the stadium in 1997.[100] In 1996, Seattle was considered for one of the 10 original MLS teams; however, the region lacked an adequate outdoor stadium.[101] In 2007, it was announced that Seattle would be the home of an expansion team. The first Sounders FC regular season match was at the stadium on March 19, 2009. Fredy Montero scored the first goal in a 3–0 Seattle victory.[102]

Before the opening of their first season, the Sounders already had the highest number of season ticket holders in the MLS after they the sold all 22,000 of the offered season ticket packages.[103] The team created a web site that was used to identify seating arrangements for season ticket holders based on personal interests including preferred method for watching a game and foreign team preference.[104] For the first half of the inaugural season, the upper bowl and some of the lower bowl sections were tarped off to create a more intimate feel and a seating capacity of 27,700.[105] The stadium was designed to easily open seating sections in stages if needed. After repeated sellout crowds, additional sections were opened, increasing total capacity to 32,400.[106] In the Sounders' first year they set an MLS record with an average home attendance of 30,943 people.[107] Capacity was increased to 35,700 after the 2009 season.[108] The Sounders set the state's single game soccer attendance record when they opened the upper bowl and drew 66,848 for an exhibition game with Barcelona.[109]

Like the Seahawks, the Sounders are beginning to receive attention for sellout crowds and boisterous fans.[110] The Seattle Times reported that a "new standard for attendance and game-day atmosphere has been set"[111] due to the loud sellout crowds. The passionate Emerald City Supporters have dubbed the general admission sections behind the south goal the "Brougham End" for the street that runs along the south edge of the complex.[112]

Other events

A man sings passionately into a microphone
A concert at the Wamu Theater

The Rolling Stones, Metallica, and other large acts have performed at Qwest Field. The stadium hosts both trade and consumer shows. The Qwest Field Events Center connects to the stadium's west field plaza and consists of two exhibition halls, a conference room, and a concourse.[15] The events center hosts pre-game events for the Seahawks and Mariners. According to the Public Stadium Authority's website, the events center contributes more than half a billion dollars to the region's economy.[113]

The Event Center had previously been called "the worst venue in town" for concerts but in 2006, AEG Live and First & Goal formed a partnership to create the newly branded "WaMu Theater."[114] New theater space can be assembled on an as needed basis within the building and equipment, including the 104-foot (32 m) wide stage, can be dismantled and stored in the stadium. The theater's acoustics were improved by installing panels on the ceiling and a large curtain. Depending on the seating configuration, the capacity can be 3,300, 4,000, or 7,000. Seal performed the inaugural concert on November 6, 2006.[115] After the 2008 failure of Washington Mutual (WaMu), there were questions on whether the WaMu Theater name would remain.[116] The government seized the bank and gave control to the FDIC, who then sold it to JPMorgan Chase,[117] but it was unclear which entity obtained the naming rights and the theater name is not expected to be changed without a new sponsor.[116]

The facilities have been used for public speaking engagements. The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso, delivered a 28-minute speech to 50,817 people on April 12, 2008. The event was part of the five-day Seeds of Compassion conference held in Seattle.[118] Michelle Obama spoke to a crowd of about 1,600 at the Event Center during a fundraising event for governor Christine Gregoire's 2008 reelection campaign.[119]

Facility contracts

The stadium was originally named Seahawks Stadium. The name was changed to Qwest Field in June 2004 after the telecommunications carrier bought the naming rights for $75 million for a period of fifteen years.[120] According to the agreement, the proceeds must be used for maintenance and upgrades. A portion of any profit then goes into a $10 million fund Allen guaranteed for youth playfields.[121] During Sounders FC matches, the field is entitled "The Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field" as part of a sponsorship deal with Microsoft.[122][123] The Hawks' Nest is closed due to a large Xbox advertisement covering the bleachers.[124]

In addition to its 48 concession stands, restaurants and lounges are located throughout the stadium.[22][25] Along with typical fare, local Pacific salmon sandwiches, Dungeness crab cakes, and microbrews are served.[22][125] In 2006, Levy Restaurants replaced Aramark in a five year deal to provide the food and beverage service for the stadium and exhibition center.[126] Qwest Field is the only venue in the NFL that does not have a contract with either Coca-Cola or Pepsi.[127] In May 2007, Seattle-based Jones Soda outbid Coca-Cola to sign a five year contract for the pouring rights of their beverages.[128][129] Jones Soda has released different football related flavors, and the CEO has said that they want to give the fans a "really cool experience."[130]

Transportation

The last commuter train at a train station with a brightly lit stadium nearby. The stadium's roof supports are colored with green and red lights for the Christmas season.
A train at nearby King Street Station after a Seahawks' game

Qwest Field is bordered by the Pioneer Square, International District, and Industrial District neighborhoods of Seattle. The stadium's referendum approval required a transportation management program to coordinate transportation options. First & Goal's facility lease agreement also included a provision to ease gridlock.[12] A “Dual Event Agreement” with Safeco Field was established so that two events with a combined attendance of over 58,000 would not occur within four hours of each other.[131] The agreement was also implemented to coordinate mass transit to the stadiums on game days. Local and regional buses service the area with stops within three blocks of the stadium, and the county's Metro bus service offers express routes from several area park and ride lots for Seahawks games. Trains service the stadium through Seattle's King Street Station and overflow tracks accommodate extra trains during events.[132] Regional commuter trains operate on Sundays if the Seahawks have a home game. Trains also run for mid-day Sounders FC games on Saturdays.[133] In 2008, the commuter trains carried 64,000 event goers to the two nearby stadiums.[132] Amtrak, primarily through the Pacific Northwest corridor's Cascades route, also serves the station. On July 18, 2009, light rail service between SeaTac and downtown began in time for an exhibition match between the Sounders and Chelsea.[132]

Qwest Field is bordered by the junction of Interstates 5 and 90 to the east and State Route 99 to its west. The State Route 519 corridor connects I-90 to the neighborhood. Local governments compromised with both the Seahawks and Mariners on the location of new ramps over the train tracks that run along the east sides of Qwest and Safeco Fields. An overpass will be built for S Royal Brougham Way, the road that borders the south edge of the Qwest Field complex, to improve access and safety. The project is scheduled for completion in June 2010.[134] The stadium has 2,000 parking spaces in its parking garage and 8,400 in the surrounding lots to accommodate automobile traffic. There is a plan to develop the north parking lot area into condominiums and apartments. The developer must replace the 500 parking spots that will be lost and turn over parking revenue to the Public Stadium Authority per an agreement with King County.[135]

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External links

Preceded by
Husky Stadium
Home of the
Seattle Seahawks

since 2002
Succeeded by
current
Preceded by
Memorial Stadium (Seattle)
Home of the
Seattle Sounders (USL)

2003–2007
Succeeded by
Starfire Sports Complex
Preceded by
first stadium
Home of
Seattle Sounders FC

since 2009
Succeeded by
current
Preceded by
The Home Depot Center
Host of the
MLS Cup

2009
Succeeded by
current
Preceded by
Lincoln Financial Field
Host of NFC Championship Game
2006
Succeeded by
Soldier Field

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