Starfire Stadium, Memorial Stadium, Cheney Stadium. Since the inaugural season of NWSL play in 2013, OL Reign has been on a journey of pitches like their home stadium. Today, the club is packing moving boxes again, this time with the Lumen Field-branded destination.
You read that right – OL Reign is returning to Seattle, this time calling Lumen Field his new full-time home for the 2022 NWSL season and beyond. The club announced this step, today, in a press conference at the stadium, confirming that it had signed a multi-year lease agreement. The team plans to start with a configuration where the eastern and southern sections of the lower bowl are open, with a capacity of approximately 10,000, but they have the flexibility to open more seats on demand.
A nearly decade-long dream finally became a reality on August 29, when Team OL Reign hosted rival Cascadia Portland Thorns FC at Lumen Field in front of a crowd of more than 27,000 fans. The 2-1 win was the first half of a historic duo dubbed “The Pacific Northwest Experience,” and served as a reminder that this team, having included some of the most outstanding players in the women’s game throughout its existence, deserves a major stage as Lumen Field , especially if this place wants to claim its dedication to the beautiful game and be the host of the FIFA 2026 Men’s World Cup.
You’d be hard pressed to find any Reign fans who didn’t consider the match back in August at Lumen Field one of the season’s best, if not the best moments. For the longest time, we’ve all been dreaming of what an NWSL match at Lumen Field would look like. Do people come? Will the team on the field be up to the occasion? Both of these questions were met with a “Yes!”
When Reign left Memorial Stadium before the 2019 NWSL season, they considered moving to the then-named CenturyLink Field, but the cost and risk were too high for ownership at the time. Consequently, they chose to move to Tacoma with a plan to play at Cheney Stadium on a temporary basis while, in collaboration with the City of Tacoma, the Sounders and the Tacoma Rainiers, develop and build a soccer field for the area with an opening. The target date is 2022.
The original concept for a stadium with a capacity of approximately 6,500 has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the increasing stadium standards set by NWSL, the feasibility of the project was recently reassessed to determine if a larger stadium could fit into the proposed site. Based on that study, although the 10,000-seat stadium would be physically feasible, a number of factors made it financially unviable, with an impractical timeline for Reign’s upcoming needs.
“We are grateful for the support of the community in Tacoma, especially the efforts of all the individuals and organizations who worked so hard on the new stadium project. In particular, the support of Mayor Woodards – who from the beginning has been our biggest fan in Tacoma – will be appreciated by Bill Bridmore, CEO of OL Reign, said Bill Bridmore, CEO of OL Reign. Always appreciated by our organization.
In parallel to reassessing the feasibility of the Tacoma Stadium project, OL Reign has resumed discussions with the owners/operators of Lumen Field, First & Goal, about the potential for play at this stadium. This time, thanks to the financial backing of OL Reign’s new majority owner, OL Groupe, the parties were able to reach an agreement to make this longstanding dream a reality.
“We are very pleased that OL Reign will have the opportunity to return to his home country of Seattle,” said OL Groupe Chairman Jean-Michel Aulas in the club announcement. “The allure of our project in the United States comes in large part from our strong belief in the region. It gives us confidence to make significant investments to grow the club, which we hope will result in greater support from fans and from the community.”
“We are thrilled to develop a new chapter of our project at Lumen Field,” said Vincent Berthelot, COO of OL Reign. “The record attendance at our game at Lumen Field this season showed that there is deep support for the club in Seattle, giving us confidence that returning to Seattle is the right long-term decision for the club.”
When Laura Harvey returned to coach OL Reign in the middle of the 2021 season, there were of course a lot of familiar faces at the club, but she knew OL Groupe’s ambition with the club was something she had to be a part of.
“That has been the goal since my first day in Seattle,” Harvey said. “To see how far this team and league have come in nine years is incredible. We may not have always had the resources, but we have always had the vision, ambition and drive to be something special. Pairing the club’s historical DNA with the support that OL provides has made something magical. I am happy. So much for the players that they will finally have the opportunity to show the city what they can do on a stadium worthy of their talent.”
Captain and Reign Original, Lou Barnes reiterated feelings about the club’s return to Seattle. “The double header was an incredibly emotional day for the whole team, but especially for those of us who have been with the club from the start. We have been fantasizing about the day for a long time, so it was amazing to see it finally happen. The match gave us a glimpse of what our future could be if The team is back in Seattle. We are so happy to be back in Seattle and playing at Lumen Field. We can’t wait for the 2022 season to start!”