By ADAM McFADDEN, For The Mirror
For years, Seahawks fans have missed out on one of the rites of summer that die-hard fans of other NFL teams have been able to enjoy: Watching their team practice at training camp. Whether the Seahawks have been in the dorms of Northwest College, playing in the cramped practice facility in Kirkland, or working through the dust and heat in Cheney, it hasn’t been easy for the 12th man to see the Seahawks in action.
That is all about to change with the completion of the Seahawks’ new headquarters, the Virgina Mason Athletic Center, on the shores of Lake Washington in Renton.
Lance Lopes, vice president and general counsel for the Seahawks, said fans will have plenty of space to utilize at the new facility in Renton. But they are going to have to wait a little bit longer. While Lopes said construction is on schedule and going very well, the new facility likely won’t be done until August.
That means fans won’t get the full training-camp experience until next season. But the Seahawks are planning on coming to the new facility for events during the summer so fans can get a look at the new place.
“We’re not in any rush to get out of Kirkland,” Lopes said. “The most significant window for us was to get in before the season starts, and we’re confident that will happen.”
The team is creating a grass-covered hill along the outdoor practice fields where fans can sit in bleachers or on the grass to watch the team.
“It will be sort of like an amphitheater where fans can watch practice,” Lopes said. “There’ll be thousands of seats… In Kirkland there was nowhere to put the fans.”
Another hurdle in Kirkland has been parking. Lopes said fans will be able to use a shuttle system to bus back and forth from parking lots to the new facility. The headquarters has space for about 275 cars for players and staff, but no space for fan parking.
The Renton facility, bounded by Interstate 405 to the east and Lake Washington to the west, is being built on approximately 19 acres and will feature three outdoor grass fields and one full-size indoor field.
The indoor field has a height of 95 feet to allow for punting and kicking practice.
“We’ll be able to do things in inclement weather that we aren’t able to now,” Lopes said.
The main building on the site will be approximately 124,000 square feet of training and administration space. The added space for training (there will be about three times as much training space in Renton as there is in Kirkland) should improve player’s healing time and minimize injuries.
“This will have a significant impact on the offseason training program,” Lopes said. “It will keep players around and make them more effective during the season.”
The new facility should help the team to recruit players and employees.
“In Kirkland, we have one of the oldest practice facilities,” Lopes said. “We feel the new facility is state-of-the-art. We feel it’s going to be the best in the league. The location is definitely the best in the league.”
Lopes said the Seahawks saw an opportunity to upgrade and seized the moment. He said the team had “outgrown” Kirkland.
Moving in right in the midst of the preseason chaos shouldn’t be a problem for the team.
“We’ve moved back and forth to Cheney for a long time,” Lopes said.
Lopes said the leaders of Renton have been “very welcoming” to the Seahawks and that the team plans on improving its new home by making Renton a higher priority as far as community service.
“We definitely plan to have an impact in the community,” he said. “We want to have a positive impact on Renton.”
Adam McFadden can be reached at email@example.com or at 425-255-3484, ext. 5054.