The Storm has a new Seattle Center neighbor. Seattle’s burgeoning pro soccer team, Reign FC, will play at Memorial Stadium. It announced a multi-year contract Thursday to host home matches at the facility, partnering with Seattle Public Schools to renovate the locker rooms and make other improvements to the venue named in honor of Seattle students who died in World War II.
The two-time WNBA champion Storm signed a 10-year agreement to play at KeyArena in 2009. Seattle is entering its 15th season playing in the facility overall.
KeyArena has a basketball-capacity of 17,072 but the Storm only uses the lower-bowl (9,686). The team hangs a black curtain around the upper-bowl, often adjusting when it needs an increase in capacity for Kids’ Day afternoon games or postseason matchups. Memorial Stadium has a 12,000-seat capacity that will be formatted to fit 6,000 fans on one side of the field.
No alcohol will be sold at Reign games due to the partnership with schools but the summer could still be a fun mesh of the two professional women’s sports in one downtown hub. The Reign’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), which is entering its second season, released its schedule on Friday while the WNBA released its schedule for its 18th season on Thursday. The Reign’s 24-match regular-season opens April 13 at Memorial Stadium and the Storm tips May 16 at KeyArena.
Seattle plays 10 of its opening 13 games on the road, its 34-game season not conflicting at all schedule-wise with the Reign. The possible fun, however is how the teams managed to merge. For Fourth of July weekend, the Storm hosts rival LA on July 3 and Chicago, which features Kent native Courtney Vandersloot, on July 5. The Reign has a home match on July 6.
In August, there are four consecutive dates of home games between the teams. The Reign plays on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 while the Storm plays on Aug. 7 and Aug. 10 in the final stretch of the WNBA season.
The teams are expecting some big names to add to the kick-off of the pro sports hub. The Storm is expecting the return of All-Stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird from injury this summer, just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2004 WNBA championship. Meanwhile the Reign finished seventh in the NWSL last season but snagged Olympic F Sydney Leroux and got M Megan Rapinoe to commit to more games to jumpstart the Reign’s second season.
Whether the big names and revamped neighborhood translates to attendance bumps between the soccer and basketball teams is the intriguing unknown. While the Northwest region is passionate about soccer, the Reign struggled to average 2,290 fans its inaugural season at its old Starfire Stadium in Tukwila. That’s far less than the Storm during its inaugural season in 2000 (8,912 fans) at KeyArena but the figure dropped to a franchise-low 6,980 last season despite the team making a WNBA-record 10th consecutive playoff appearance.
Regardless, Seattle is headed for a historic summer with two professional women’s teams playing at Seattle Center.