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Originally published April 29, 2014 at 7:16 PM | Page modified April 30, 2014 at 6:33 AM

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Sounders FC nearly completes independent business transition from Seahawks

Sounders FC’s split from the Seahawks in business operations, including a move to Pioneer Square, will be completed this week.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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TUKWILA — The phones work. Computers, too.

For now, those are the important updates as Sounders FC’s business operations become independent from the Seahawks, a transition that ends a long partnership and will be complete by week’s end. The MLS team has already relocated its full-time business staff from the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, the home of the reigning Super Bowl champs, to office space in Pioneer Square — along the route of the March to the Match, by no accident.

Still, the venture is very much a work in progress, and these next few days are centered on the basics, like making sure email accounts are functioning.

Next week, said Adrian Hanauer, part owner and general manager, “That’s when we’ll really start to work on the substantive parts of the transition: thinking about our brand again, thinking about opportunities to increase revenue, thinking about the cost side of our business, basically doing a once-over on it and trying to come out the other end with an even more robust, growing, interesting, winning culture.”

The Sounders had announced in March that their formal affiliation with the Seahawks, a vital ingredient to Seattle’s overwhelming successful MLS launch, would end.

The move isn’t expected to affect the Sounders’ future at CenturyLink Field (they are at the beginning of a five-year lease) or the fan experience (though there are preliminary plans to have a technology-driven “Fan Innovation Center” at the new headquarters, 159 South Jackson Street).

A tangible change is that shared team president Peter McLoughlin will focus solely on his duties with the Seahawks, and Hanauer noted the Sounders haven’t even discussed whether the position will be filled, either through internal promotion or external hire.

In other notes: Paul Allen will retain his 25 percent ownership stake, and team operations and practice facilities will remain at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.

One question has lingered, though, a month after the first news of the split:

What do the Sounders — who regularly lead MLS in attendance, television ratings and merchandise sales — think can be accomplished in this transition that couldn’t be achieved in partnership with the Seahawks?

“It’s a fair and good question,” Hanauer said, “and I’m not sure we have the ultimate answer to that. I was in our space (Monday) and it was all soccer people all focused on the Sounders. Everything in the building was focused on the Sounders, all the imagery, all the messaging, the brand, everybody selling Sounders tickets, and there is just something about the energy that that creates, and the creativity and the collaboration that hopefully leads to a better business.

“I think having our own culture and complete individual focus allows us maybe some opportunities and to dream about some of those things.”

The Sounders and Seahawks are still expected to maintain some level of cooperation, perhaps in use of an indoor turf field at the VMAC. And as it relates to becoming competitors in the local sports and entertainment market, Hanauer said that dynamic existed even when partners — e.g. pursuing sponsors — and won’t change dramatically.

“I think it’d be naive to say that everyone out there selling professional sports or, quite frankly, entertainment generally isn’t in some way a competitor,” Hanauer added.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184

or jmayers@seattletimes.com



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