The home of the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders has quietly undergone a renaissance—largely thanks to Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks—that’s transforming it into a millennial-focused power player for sports events.
“Every one of the global companies headquartered here is doing really well. That has fueled hotel growth and new airline service, and has served as a catalyst for downtown living,” says Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Visit Seattle. “Every [aspect] you can imagine has taken off. I look at it as the biggest resurgence a city has ever seen.”
Taking the Field
Many of the city’s professional sports venues located near each other in Seattle’s Stadium District double as facilities for amateur sporting events. And with Russell Wilson always on the verge of sending the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl, there’s never been a more exciting time to compete in the area. Take a look.
>> CenturyLink Field is home to both the Seahawks and the Sounders. The NFL team had record-breaking attendance during the 2014 season, spurring the addition of 1,000 new padded seats in the south end zone—plus a Toyota Fan Deck—last year.
>> Emerald Downs is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. It hosts thoroughbred racing events April through September around its 1-mile oval and has a 250,000-sq.-ft. grandstand for spectators.
>> Husky Stadium, an outdoor facility on the University of Washington campus that dates back to 1920, became one of college football’s top facilities in 2013 after a $280 million renovation. Among the updates were the addition of 27 suites, 65 patio suites and 2,500 club seats, bringing total capacity to 70,000.
>> KeyArena at Seattle Center is home to the WNBA’s Storm and Seattle University men’s basketball. It anchors the 74-acre Seattle Center and has seating configurations for 5,500 to 15,500 people. The city is exploring a gut renovation of the facility to make it compatible for an NBA and an NHL team, at a cost of $285 million.
>> Safeco Field has been home base for MLB’s Mariners since 1999. Long known as a pitcher’s ballpark where home runs go to die, the stadium underwent renovations in 2013 to move in some of the outfield walls. In 2015, it became the first major stadium to install an LED lighting system.
>> Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center was built in 1990 for the Seattle Goodwill Games. The 2,500-seat facility remains fully operational today, hosting an active list of events including international competitions and more.
> Xfinity Arena at Everett (formerly Comcast Arena) has an ice rink hosting events from youth hockey to tournaments to figure skating competitions. It can also be transformed for nonice events, such as EnduroCross motorbike racing, happening in October.
3 Minutes With Ralph Morton
The executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission and newly elected chair of the National Association of Sports Commissions has been in the sports tourism industry for nearly three decades. He shared a few insights into Seattle’s sports business.
On the area’s versatile terrain
I think anything that is outside works well in Seattle. The temperature tends to be moderate throughout the year. We don’t have blazing hot summers or really cold winters, and we have amazing outdoor scenery. It’s always been a place where people love to be outdoors. We just had Clipper Round the World, a global yachting race, in April.
On the crazy Sounders following
The Sounders have been an anomaly. Many soccer teams average 18,000 to 20,000 fans per game; we’re averaging more than 35,000 per game. They are the epicenter of professional soccer in the United States. We hosted the up-and-coming Copa America Centenario at CenturyLink Field, and that will open doors to bring other soccer events here.
On Seattle getting back an NBA team
That’s something we’re all spending time on. It really begins with the arena and investors. As a community there’s only so much you can do. The NBA has to be ready to allocate a team, and right now it’s something there’s a lot of interest in, as well as NHL.
Beyond Bar Food
The cuisine at Quality Athletics, located in Seattle’s Stadium District, goes way beyond bar food. Part of Huxley Wallace Collective restaurant group, Quality is a hot spot for pre- and post-game celebration (or wallowing, if the score doesn’t go your way). An on-site slushy and snow cone machine, rooftop garden, AstroTurf back bar and outdoor fire pits add to the festive atmosphere. Of course, it wouldn’t be a true sports bar without beer options aplenty, but be sure to try the Seattle Freeze, a frozen cocktail that changes regularly. For group reservations, book the Trophy Room, a private space with a full bar and indoor/outdoor seating for up to 100, weather permitting. Restaurant buyouts are also available on a limited basis.
Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, March 3-6 at KeyArena
National Collegiate Boxing Association Championships, April 7-9 at Alaska Airlines Arena
Clipper Round the World, April 15-28 at Bell Harbor Marina and various venues
Seattle Urban Trek, April 23 at Safeco Field and Seattle’s waterfront
AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour Seattle Open, June 3-5 at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah
Copa America Centenario, June 4, 14 and 16 at CenturyLink Field
KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, June 9-12 at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish