The swish of a basketball as it passes through a net. The crowd’s roar as a soccer ball is headed into a goal. The long arc of a game-winning “Hail Mary” touchdown pass. These are the sights and sounds that bring communities together.
In 1988, Paul Allen became the youngest owner in professional sports when he purchased the Portland Trail Blazers at age 35. The Trail Blazers, beloved by the Portland community, had been a top-drawing NBA team for years. They got a new home in 1995, when Vulcan completed construction on the Rose Garden (now the Moda Center) in Portland’s Rose Quarter.
Nearly a decade later, when Paul heard that the Seattle Seahawks might be forced to relocate to California, he stepped forward to save his hometown football team. He purchased an option to buy the team in 1996, and then posed a question to Seattleites: Would they enter into a public-private partnership with him to build a new stadium? The aging Kingdome suffered from a leaky, dangerous roof, and the Seahawks needed a new home. Allen’s proposal to the community led to a special election to vote on Referendum 48, also known as the Washington Public Stadium Authority Bill. On June 17, 1997, the referendum was approved by state voters, and 13 days later Paul Allen purchased the Seattle Seahawks. Washington State’s NFL future was saved.
While designers sketched out the new stadium, Paul Allen requested they make it an open-air facility with sweeping views of Seattle, much like the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, where Allen watched football as a boy. He also envisioned it as a multi-purpose facility, capable of hosting concerts, trade shows, and even other sporting events. Designers also created the stadium to meet all the requirements for a soccer team.
In 2009, when the MLS expanded to Seattle, Paul Allen became a minority owner of the Seattle Sounders. The soccer team now shares CenturyLink Field and operations with the Seahawks. The expansion was a tremendous success – many say it was the most successful launch of an expansion team in sports history.
Today in the Pacific Northwest, the sports scene is more vibrant than ever. Hundreds of thousands of fans course through CenturyLink Field and the Moda Center every year, united by community sports.