Here’s what Sounders minority owner/general manager Adrian Hanauer says Sounders fans will gain from the club’s decision to split business operations with the Seattle Seahawks:
Our fans should not lose anything. Let me first give you a little bit of background: We have about 40 business people over at the VMAC that work on the Sounders business exclusively. The leadership group has been more shared between Seahawks and Sounders, so the leadership group over there has been conflicted at times: working on Seahawks one week or one day and Sounders the next. The big benefit to this move – quite frankly for both organizations – is now we will have leadership teams that get to focus exclusively on their specific businesses, specific teams. So for us, our hope is that leadership group and all the great people that we already have working on the Sounders can create our own unique soccer culture when we plant the flag in Pioneer Square, which is where we’re likely to plant the flag in the very, very, very near future. We can dream big dreams about where the brand goes from here, that we can focus on innovation and technology. One of our objectives with our space is that it becomes a fan and partner clubhouse where we can have events and engage our partners and stakeholders. Ultimately and hopefully that turns into more fans, fans that are more connected to the organization, and just begin to create our own culture. Again, this was a matter of when, not if, and the timing seemed good. We’re five years in, the Sounders have established a really solid business, and it was just a good time for us to build our own organization.
On key personnel issues: Paul Allen’s ownership doesn’t change (but) on May 1, Peter McLoughlin – who is now the president of the Sounders – and I guess on May 1 he becomes not the president of the Sounders. We are in the process of putting our leadership team together for the Sounders. We have a lot of very good people. We’ve hired a couple of key people to help with the transition and who may or may not stay on after the transition.
On if Hanauer could become team president: It is possible. We’re trying to nail down exactly how we want the leadership structure organized. But yeah, that is something we’ve talked about.
On if he would give up GM duties: It’s something that we’ve talked about. I’ve got enough great people around me where I think I could take on the role on the business side and still keep my eyes squarely on the team side of things. But those are things we’ll decide over the next 45 days to beyond.
On loss of Seahawks big-brother clout on advertising, TV deals, etc.: It certainly was (important) as we launched the Sounders. But the Sounders are a pretty established organization in this community now. It’s interesting: I’ve certainly heard from multiple sponsors, some of whom were more intrigued over the years with the Sounders than the Seahawks. But now that the Seahawks are Super Bowl champions, I’m sure the scales have tipped the other way. But I think the organization is very capable of standing on its own two feet. I guess I’ve used the phase “taking the training wheels off,” and we also still have a great relationship with the Seahawks. So if there are opportunities that are beneficial to both teams, I imagine we will stay engaged and work on those cooperatively.
On if soccer-specific stadium is among big dreams: I don’t want to say this an end up with the wrong headline. If someone were to hand me a $350 million soccer-specific stadium in the city of Seattle, yes, we would take it. But we have a lease at CenturyLink for five more years. We have an option for years beyond that, we’re in discussions for a longer-term deal there. We love CenturyLink. We think it’s a fantastic stadium for us. So our current bias and plan is to stay at CenturyLink, but you never know. There are no guarantees in life, but certainly when I talked about dreaming big dreams, I wasn’t alluding to getting the heck out of CenturyLink and building something. To me, dreaming big dreams: How we go from 44,000 to 50,000 and then 55,000? What can we do in technology and social to engage our fans in a more immersive and dynamic way? What can we do with the game experience to take it to the next level? What can do we need to do in sport science and technology to better (serve) the team? What are the things we can do as we head to the likely launch of a USL-Pro team? What are the things we can do at Starfire to make it an even more Sounders-immersive (facility). Lots and lots and lots of things.