Promise of soccer prevented Seahawks from moving to Los Angeles
The Seattle Seahawks were prepared to move to Los Angeles in 1996 after they couldn't secure a deal for a new stadium in Washington, but a soccer fan placed a call to Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen and helped keep the Seahawks in Seattle, according to a story in The Guardian.
Allen did not yet own the team in 1996, but he promised to buy the Seahawks if he could secure $300 million in public funding for a new football stadium. "Together, we can leave something for future generations," he said in a commercial at the time. The Mariners, a more successful and popular team than the Seahawks at the time, were also embroiled in their own negotiation for a new, publicly-financed ballpark.
Allen's struggle to secure funding for a stadium meant the team was in danger of moving to Los Angeles, but soccer fan and attorney Fred Mendoza called Allen to suggest the city build a football and soccer stadium, to capitalize on the market's love for the other kind of football, according to the story by Les Carpenter. That led to meetings between Allen and Mendoza, a scramble to change stadium blueprints and on-the-ground campaigning for votes.
Soon, Major League Soccer promised the city a franchise if a stadium was built in advance. The efforts created strong public support for both football and soccer, and Allen was able to secure funding via a statewide referendum to build CenturyLink Field. Twelve years after the agreement was struck, Seattle got its MLS franchise in 2009, the Sounders, led by American star Clint Dempsey.
In 2014, both the Seahawks and Sounders have arguably the best home-field advantage in their respective sport. And Seattle is hosting the NFC Championship game for the second year in a row. - Rohan Nadkarni