Sports

Is MLS coming to Kent?

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

The Kent Sounders?

It doesn’t really roll off the old tongue, but the moniker could become a reality if all things go as planned. The Seattle Sounders announced last week the possibility of constructing an eight- to 10-field complex with the centerpiece being a 20,000-seat stadium. A stadium that would, most likely, house a Major League Soccer (MLS) team, as well as the Sounders.

The Sounders and the city of Kent are currently in initial discussions to build a $35 million soccer-only facility on the condition an MLS team comes to the Seattle-area.

“Our goal is to get something finalized by next spring,” Sounders General Manager Adrian Hanauer said at a press conference last week before Seattle’s win over the MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes. “The earliest anything could be done would be 2005 and most likely 2006.”

The Sounders and the city are now looking to another public agency for help, possibly the Kent School District, to assist with the pricetag. It is still up in the air what percentages each agency would be responsible for during the possible construction of the $35 million complex. Those details will be worked out at a later date, if the plan is even feasible, officials say.

“The city of Kent is very enthusiastic and is willing to participate in a significant way,” Hanauer said. “We probably need to pull one more partner into the mix, whether that is the school district, the county or the state.”

In the past, the Sounders have considered stadium sites in Fife, on the Eastside and at the Midway landfill, which haven’t come to fruition.

“We would only build it if it were extremely likely that an MLS team would follow shortly,” Hanauer said. “That said, it is highly, highly likely that if the stadium is going to get built, we could find an MLS ownership group.”

Federal Way has also discussed different types of sports complex ideas in the past, but nothing has developed. Some of those talks have occurred between the city and the Washington State Youth Soccer Association (WSYSA), based in Federal Way, about possibly constructing a soccer-only facility in town. But things have been put on the back burner while the city of Fife, the Tacoma-Pierce County Youth Soccer Association and the WSYSA move forward with a plan that would include the two soccer organizations entering into a long-term lease with Fife for a 41-acre, 12-field complex, which will be used as a hub for youth soccer in the state.

In fact, the state Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation awarded a $500,000 grant last month for development of the project.

The partnership the Sounders are discussing with Kent is not new in Major League Soccer — it is currently underway in Texas. The MLS’s Dallas Burn announced in April a partnership with the Frisco Independent School District, the city of Frisco, Collin County and the Hunt Sports Group, a private company, to build a $65 million soccer-specific complex in the city north of Dallas. The site will feature a 20,000-seat home for the Burn and 17 tournament-grade fields for youth and high school soccer and is set to open in 2005. The Burn and school district will jointly use the stadium for MLS competition and varsity high school football/soccer games.

“The vision and innovation of the people of Frisco and Collin County is applauded by soccer fans across the United States,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a press release. “The approval of this public-private partnership represents a watershed moment for the sport in this country.”

The agreement stipulates that Collin County and the City of Frisco will each allocate $20 million to the project, with $15 million coming from the Frisco Independent School District and $10 million from the Hunt Sports Group, who will also pay the city $100,000 a year in rent on the stadium for 20 years and assume the risk on all operating and maintenance expenses and retain all revenue generated by the site.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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