- Lloyd Brown
Lumen Field – Seattle Sounders FC
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Lumen Field 800 Occidental Ave S Seattle, WA 98134
Year Opened: 2002 Capacity: 67,000
Names Change… The Fan Experience Remains The Same
The Seattle Sounders FC has been one of the premier clubs in the MLS over the last two decades. They have won two MLS Cups (2016 and 2019), and the Supporters Shield for the best regular season record in 2014. Seattle has two major rivalries with their Pacific Northwest neighbors in the form of the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
The Sounders have played at their current home since 2009. CenturyLink Field changed its name to Lumen Field in November 2020. This was not the result of a new stadium sponsorship agreement. CenturyLink has rebranded itself as Lumen Technologies. Most stadium signage has been changed to reflect this, but due to the immense cost of changing the name on the roof of the stadium, the CenturyLink name remains in place.
Lumen Field has a capacity of 67,000, but for Sounders matches the capacity typically is limited to the lower bowl and can hold 37,722. Capacity is typically expanded for the rivalry games against the Timbers or Whitecaps or playoff games. The stadium has 111 suites and 7,000 club seats.
Food & Beverage 5
If you cannot find something you like to eat at Lumen Field, you are not likely to find a place you like anywhere. The stadium has 48 different food vendors, covering everything from Pacific Northwest cuisine, hometown favorites, and foods from the International District to stadium standards, pub foods, a value menu…oh, and of course, Starbucks.
Seattle is a foodie haven, and local restaurants are represented at stands including Night Market, Hempler’s Hot Dogs, Pacific NW Marketplace, Ivar’s, Beecher’s Mac and Cheese, and ULI’s Sausage House. International flavors are available at Din Tai Fung, Premiere Meat Pies, and Cantina.
The Pacific Northwest is also known for its culture of craft brewing. Pub food and craft beer selections are offered at the Beardslee Public House, the Brougham Beer Hall, the Craft House, and the Elysian Brewing Company stand.
Lumen Field also offers a shortlist of value menu items for those on a budget. Items include popcorn ($2), hot dogs ($3), Coca-Cola brand sodas in 12-ounce cans ($4), 12-ounce Budweiser brand beers in a can ($5), and for $7 you can choose from a 12-ounce Elysian Craft Beer, a nine-ounce BABE wine or a 12-ounce Virtue Cider.
Lumen Field does allow single-serving foods to be brought into the venue. They must be in a clear plastic bag.
The design of the stadium, the pageantry and traditions of the supporter’s groups, and the level of talent on the pitch all add up to a very enjoyable experience at Sounders games.
The stadium was built on a very small footprint, so designers pioneered the use of cantilevered seating. This brings the fans closer to the action than at most stadiums. They also considered the somewhat soggy climate of Seattle and included a shell-like roof structure that protects 70% of the seats from the elements.
The ends of the field are left uncovered, as the design team wanted to provide memorable views of the Seattle skyline at the north end, and views of T-Mobile Park and Mount Rainier at the south end. (A major complaint about the stadium’s predecessor, the Kingdome, was that it prevented fans from enjoying the beauty of the region due to its tomb-like design.)
The pageantry of attending a Sounders game begins 90 minutes before the game. Fans and supporter groups participate in the March to the Match. This March begins in Pioneer Square and goes south until it reaches the plaza at the north end of Lumen Field. It is a very colorful event as the various supporter groups wave their flags, sing their fight songs, and participate in a good-natured rivalry of seeing if they can be louder in doing their chants than the other groups.
The March is led by the Sounders own band, The Sound Force. Fans also can visit The Ninety, which serves as the team’s clubhouse. It is only open on match days. The Ninety features a look at the history of the team, trophies won in various soccer competitions and of course, offers a place to enjoy a few beers.
Lumen Field is in the SoDo (south of downtown) District. This is an area where much of Seattle’s history converges. Just north of the stadium is Pioneer Square. This area served as the city center during Seattle’s early days as a logging town. There are a wide variety of restaurants and shops available in this area. To the east of the stadium is the International District, home to much of Seattle’s large Asian population. This area is known for its excellent dining offerings
Just a 15-minute walk to the northwest of the stadium is the Puget Sound waterfront. The waterfront offers a wide variety of clubs, restaurants, and historical sites for visitors to enjoy. This is also where the ferry boats launch for trips to sites on the Olympic Peninsula. It is well worth the time for a round trip on the ferry to get great views from the water of the Seattle skyline to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west.
The Seattle Sounders and the Emerald City Supporters adopted the supporter group concept that long has been placed in Europe many years ago. As a result, the Sounders have one of the strongest (and loudest) fan bases in the MLS. Supporter groups are set up by geographic, ethnic, and all persuasions. These groups go much deeper than just attending a game as they become a social network for the members.
Most of the supporter groups affiliate with a pub in their area or maintain a clubhouse for watch parties when the Sounders are playing an away match. They are also active on a year-round basis, participating in holiday celebrations as well as community improvement projects.
The supporter groups fall under the umbrella organization known as the Emerald City Supporters. However, each group is free to develop its own identity, which includes its crest, its flag, and its songs and cheers. Many of these groups are based on a specific region of the state. However, the Sounders have supporter groups from as far away as the Midwest or Southern California.
On matchday, the supporter groups form up at Pioneer Park and March to the Match. Once inside the stadium, they do their best to maintain the venue’s reputation as one of the loudest in US sports. Typically, these fans will stand for the entire game, creating an energy level that must inspire the home team and intimidate the visitors. They create large tifos, or banners, for each game, which also add to the pageantry of the event.
Not every fan who attends a Sounders game is involved in a supporter group. However, they likely have a friend or relative who is.
The Seattle area offers a wide variety of methods to get to a Sounders match. Lumen Field is near the I-5 / I-90 interchange just south of the downtown area. Parking decks offer around 8,000 parking spaces relatively close to the stadium. However, the Pacific Northwest is known as being a very “green” area of the country, and its citizens are very concerned about climate change. The public transportation options for getting to a game are excellent and it takes a lot of cars off the road. Many fans who live in the downtown area bike to the stadium, where bike racks are provided.
The Link light rail system runs from SeaTac Airport up to the University of Washington campus. It has a Stadium Station stop that services both Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park. Commuter rail connects outlying cities to Seattle through the King Street Station which is just three blocks from the venue. A Sounders Game Train offers express rail trips on match days. King County Motor busses will also drop you off at King Street.
Persons traveling from the Bremerton area and the Olympic Peninsula can take the Washington State ferry boat system to Pier 52, then walk the 15 minutes south to Lumen Field. Finally, Uber serves as the official rideshare service of the Sounders and offers discounted rides.
Return on Investment 3
One thing to know before you go is that all activities related to a Sounders game are on a cashless basis. The face value of tickets to a Sounders match runs from $30 to $90. However, when the stadium is at its typical soccer capacity of just over 37,000, the games are sold out. Tickets on the secondary market can easily run into three figures. There are about 8,000 parking spaces spread out around the SoDo District.
On game days these lots will charge $30 or more. The public transit options for a Sounders game can save you a great deal of money. The light rail and bus systems drop you off just a block from the stadium and typically cost no more than $5 a trip depending on the distance traveled. Commuter rail to outlying areas make it possible to get home after a game, rather than spending a night in Seattle, which has very high hotel rates. The ferry boats can also save time and money for fans coming over from the Olympic Peninsula.
The Sounders home pitch has been the site of a wide variety of soccer tournaments. These include two MLS Cup games, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and several USL games and college competitions.
The City of Seattle is bidding to serve as one of the US host cities for the FIFA World Cup competition in 2026. If it is selected, it will have to replace its FieldTurf playing surface with a natural grass playing pitch.
The stadium has long been known as one of the loudest stadiums in the world. Many think the shell-like roof helps to amplify the sound. It has been in a back-and-forth competition with Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium for the title of loudest venue.
The all-time attendance record for the stadium as far as soccer is 69,274 in 2019. This game featured the hometown Sounders in the MLS Cup game against Toronto FC. The Sounders were victorious, bringing home the Cup for the second time in the team’s existence.
There are very few sports venues that can match the pageantry and energy level created at Seattle Sounders FC games. The name of the stadium may change, but the great fan experience remains the same. You might say it is il-lumen-rating!