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How soccer saved the Seatle Seahawks

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Ruben Rivas, Jan 18, 2015.

  1. Ruben Rivas

    Ruben Rivas Member

    How soccer saved the Seattle Seahawks | Sport | The Guardian

    This is the story the loudest crowd in the NFL probably doesn’t want you to know. It is the story of how the Seattle Seahawks nearly disappeared, how the best home-field advantage in professional football almost never happened and how it took a passionate band of soccer fans to save football in Seattle.

    On Sunday the Seahawks will host the NFC Championship Game in an attempt to reach their second straight Super Bowl. CenturyLink Field will again be sold out and the 68,000 fans crammed into its stands will try to rattle the Green Bay Packers as they do most opponents who find communications impossible in the face of a roar that has literally triggered seismic events. Flags with the number 12 will flap throughout the city anointing the crowd as an extra, essential 12th man in Seattle blue.

    Yet there was a time not that long ago when the Seahawks were not adored in their home city, when the team played before huge swaths of empty metal bleachers and a fleet of moving vans hauled the team’s equipment to California in the first stage of a move to suburban Los Angeles. That was in 1996 and the Seahawks’ presumed departure did not generate much protest. Several losing seasons had been further blemished by a series of off-field troubles and the team’s owner, Ken Behring, was despised as an outsider determined to whisk the Seahawks away.

    Hoping to keep the team in Seattle, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen offered to buy the Seahawks but with one caveat: he wanted a new stadium to replace the dreary Kingdome, he wanted $300m of public money to help finance it and he wanted the financing to be approved in a statewide referendum that Allen would pay to hold. If the vote failed, Allen vowed to walk away, returning the Seahawks to Behring who appeared ready to complete the team’s California move.

    Winning the election seemed an almost impossible task. Allen’s request came as the city’s baseball team, the Mariners, was prevailing in an ugly fight for a new stadium. The Mariners were far better liked at the time than the Seahawks and few in the state of Washington wished to give Allen — then the world’s seventh-richest man — tax money for a stadium. As the June 1997 vote drew near the Seahawks supporters were desperate for a miracle.

    Then Fred Mendoza called Allen’s offices.

    Mendoza is a Seattle attorney and soccer fan who by the mid-1990s was playing on a handful of adult teams, coaching his children’s teams and providing legal advice to a local soccer organization. The MLS had just started, giving America its first true major soccer league since the folding of the NASL in the 1980s and the people in Mendoza’s circle longed for a Seattle team. But the MLS did not want a franchise in the Kingdome and efforts to build a soccer-only stadium went nowhere.

    One day Mendoza read a newspaper story about Allen’s struggles to get funding for a football stadium and he was hit with a thought. “I immediately went ‘Whoa, football has a rectangular stadium and that would be perfect for a soccer field,’” Mendoza recalls.

    He phoned Allen’s offices and left a message. The next day he found himself sitting in the office of Bert Kolde, one of Allen’s top advisors who was helping to run the stadium effort. He told Kolde there were some 300,000 people involved in soccer around Seattle, many of them dearly wanted an MLS team and if the proposed football stadium could be marketed as a football and soccer stadium … well there might be more than a few votes in it.

    “This is exciting,” Mendoza remembers Kolde saying.

    Allen’s people scrambled to turn their football project into a combined football and soccer stadium. They hired an architect with soccer expertise to redraw the stadium’s blueprints, widening the corners to accommodate a soccer field, moving lights so they would illuminate the sidelines and slightly raising the lowest rows of the grandstand to give better soccer sightlines. Mendoza drove around the state with Kolde and Seahawks president Bob Whitsitt, attempting to woo skeptical newspaper editorial boards. Several times he went to the state capitol to beg legislators for their support.

    But his biggest work was done on the weekends, when he set up a tent at youth soccer games. He had a microphone and a sound system and he told the people who gathered around him that Allen was committed to helping Seattle get a soccer team.

    “Fifty, 60, 70 people would come over and listen and they would say: ‘Hey let’s get the stadium,’” Mendoza says.
  2. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    Nice article by Double Down.
  3. Ruben Rivas

    Ruben Rivas Member

    I though it was a good one.
  4. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    Hah. Going deep into the memory bank for that one. Not even in the SJ style guide
  5. JakeandElwood

    JakeandElwood Well-Known Member

    So the Packers really have soccer to blame.
  6. Twirling Time

    Twirling Time Well-Known Member

    And yet the Sounders didn't join MLS until 2009. That's a dozen years where soccer fans in Seattle probably felt they were sold a bill of goods.
  7. TigerVols

    TigerVols Well-Known Member

    That is a good read. Good on ya, Guardian, for publishing it. We need more of these!
  8. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

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