Some big changes in Pacific Northwest soccer, as the NWSL’s Seattle Reign FC will play out of Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium as Reign FC, and USL Championship’s Seattle Sounders 2 will be rebranded as Tacoma Defiance.
Cheney Stadium is the longtime home to the Tacoma Rainiers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), the top Seattle Mariners affiliate. Seattle Sounders 2 moved to Cheney Stadium for the 2018 season, with the long-term plan calling for a new soccer stadium to be built next to the ballpark in coming years. Reign FC is a founding member of the NWSL. The rebranding and Reign FC move will be good for the 2019 season and beyond.
“This is a special day for Tacoma, and speaks to what’s possible with great partners, and we should be proud of that,” said Tacoma Rainiers President Aaron Artman. “We are proud to reveal the Tacoma Defiance brand, and are grateful for the leadership and support that MultiCare has brought to the stadium project and the Rainiers, Defiance and Reign FC. The addition of Reign FC to Tacoma matters, and shows the power behind great partnerships. We look forward to an exciting, and busy, 2019 in Cheney Stadium, and are committed – with our partners, public and private – to hopefully delivering a world-class soccer-specific stadium and medical facility to Central Tacoma.”
The relationship between Tacoma Defiance and MLS’s Seattle Sounders FC will remain the same. The Rainiers will operate the business side of the USL club, while Sounders FC maintains leadership over soccer operations and sporting infrastructure.
“From the soccer side of our collective business, today’s news marks a sea change for the sport’s growth in Western Washington,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “Our players will continue to be proud representing the city of Tacoma, now with a brand identity that is representative of their current home in Cheney Stadium and the new building in the coming years. Additionally, we want to extend a warm welcome to the Reign as they begin putting down roots in the South End.”
The move of Reign FC comes after several years playing out of Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center. For Reign FC owner Bill Predmore, the move to Tacoma is a natural.
“As we evaluated our stadium options in the region, we began regular conversations with the Tacoma Rainiers,” Predmore said. “The more we learned about the group operating the Rainiers and Sounders FC’s USL squad – including their vision for growing the game in Tacoma – the more we believed Tacoma could be a potential solution for our organization.”
The move to Tacoma also includes a change in Reign FC ownership, with Rainiers and Seattle FC ownership buying into the club. The group operating the Rainiers and Sounders FC’s USL side – led by Mikal Thomsen, Chairman and CEO of the Tacoma Rainiers – is taking a significant minority ownership stake in Reign FC. In addition, Adrian Hanauer and his mother, Lenore Hanauer, are also making a separate minority investment in the club.
“Adrian and Lenore have both been supportive of our club since its inception, so we are excited to welcome them to the Reign FC ownership group,” said Predmore. “The renewed strength of the ownership group will provide long-term stability, support and strategic leadership that will ensure that Reign FC is able to achieve success both on and off the pitch.”
“On behalf of Lenore Hanauer, we are excited to make this additional commitment to soccer in our community and specifically to the women’s game in our region,” said Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer. “With our partners at Reign FC and the Tacoma Rainiers, we look forward to delivering a first-class product on the field in the South Sound for years to come.”
New Stadium Planned for Both Squads
As part of the rebranding announcement, it was announced that Tacoma Defiant would have its first jersey sponsor: MultiCare Health System. As it turns out, the relationship between Tacoma Defiant and MultiCare Health System could extend far past the jersey patch, with the regional nonprofit healthcare organization committing to a 60,000-square-foot space inside a proposed new soccer stadium, offering a range of medical services that will be used by the team and the public.
The new 5,000-seat stadium would be built adjacent to Cheney Stadium and include additional fields aimed at youth soccer programs. In addition, a feasibility study is underway to determine the potential of additional development, including retail and housing, at the site. The Metro Parks Tacoma Board and Tacoma City Council have approved resolutions to proceed with feasibility studies of the project, with the involved parties developing a three-part concept to serve the Tacoma and greater Pierce County communities.