SEATTLE — The Sounders confirmed onn Tuesday that a new FieldTurf surface will be in place when Seattle begin play in March.
With CenturyLink Field hosting the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and big-name concerts in addition to the Sounders, the four-year-old playing field had shown serious signs of wear. Water appeared to pool in places during heavy rain and the surface itself had become matted down.
Seattle fell short of FIFA’s two-star certification for artificial playing surfaces last January, earning only one star. By comparison, Cascadia rivals Portland and Vancouver – in JELD-WEN Field and the temporary Empire Field location, respectively – earned two stars.
When Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid implied that poor surface conditions might have played a role in his team’s 1-1 draw against rival Portland earlier this season, his Timbers counterpart John Spencer jumped all over the comment in one of the most epic rants of the 2011 season.
“To say that the conditions suited us more than it suited them blows me away,” Spencer told Portland-area reporters on May 17. ”If it’s too wet up there for them to play soccer, they might want to move that franchise, because it pisses down rain nearly every time I’ve been in Seattle.
“Next time we go up there, we’re going to take plenty of towels for them so we can dry the field off before the game,” Spencer added. “And maybe we’ll take plenty of tissue paper so they can dry their eyes after the game.”
In retrospect, Spencer’s reaction may have been a little out of proportion, but Seattle will nevertheless strip the ammunition from any further statements by installing a new surface for the 2012 season.
The Washington Huskies are also set to play their 2012 home games at CenturyLink Field during the remodel of Husky Stadium, underlining the importance of getting a new surface during the short break between the NFL and MLS seasons. Installation is set to take place in February.
"The FieldTurf product that was installed in 2008 has performed well, especially considering the increase in stadium events, specifically soccer matches and concerts," said Seahawks, Sounders FC and FGI president Peter McLoughlin in a club-released statement. "The new field will offer the field maintenance crew an outstanding and extremely durable product to meet the requirements of each event."
The Sounders are set to open the 2012 season March 7 at 7 pm against Mexico’s Santos Laguna in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.