As Sounders FC plant flag at Longacres, real estate developer sees big opportunity to attract tech companies to historic site south of Seattle

Rendering of the proposed Longacres soccer training facility (Via Sounders FC)

RENTON, Wash. — Longacres, the storied property that once boasted a famous horse racing track and the former headquarters of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes group, now is home to the Seattle Sounders FC.

But the new Renton-based facility for Major League Soccer’s winningest team in the past decade— which will include four full-size training pitches, a state-of-the-art 50,000 square-foot front office with viewing deck and sweeping views of Mount Rainier  — is not all that’s planned for the 150-acre campus acquired late last year by Seattle-based Unico Properties.

In an interview with GeekWire following a rave green-adorned press briefing Wednesday, Unico’s Ned Carner said they’ve got big ambitions for Longacres.

And it goes well beyond soccer.

There’s good reason for that, since the massive property boasts 962,800 square feet of class A commercial office space spread across two amenity-rich (and largely empty) buildings.

That’s a real estate footprint that tech companies may desire, says Carner who would love to attract one or two to the Sounders’ new backyard.

“This is an incredibly well built space, so to be able to offer large tenants affordable space in a campus (setting) is really unique,” said Carner, adding that there is a 1-mile walking path around a lake and “unparalleled” freeway access to Interstate 405.

The Sounders’ new home (Rendering via Sounders)

The Sounders will not move into the new training facility and headquarters until 2024, but Carner said the remaining 900,000 square feet is pretty much move-in ready.

“The space itself is unique,” said Carner. “But where else do you get a campus-like feel where all of your employees would feel safe walking around and after work jogging?”

Unico also plans to build as many as 3,000 multi-family housing units at the site, located next to the Tukwila Transit Center with regular train service to Seattle’s King Street Station. The trip on the aptly named Sounder commuter train takes about 13 minutes between the two stations.

Office tenants looking for large floor plates and high ceilings that might be considering a move from Seattle are possible targets, especially those operating in the tech, life sciences and aerospace fields, Carner said. Part of the appeal, he added, is that companies can draw on talent from both Seattle and Bellevue.

The Longacres’ north building encompasses about 600,000 square feet, while the south building — where the Sounders are setting up shop — has about 300,000 square feet.

Longacres is located 13 miles south of Seattle’s Lumen Field, where the Sounders play their home matches. It’s also 13 miles south of fast-growing downtown Bellevue, and five miles east of Sea-Tac airport.

The City of Renton has long worked to brandish its image, looking to attract high-growth employers as a diversification strategy from an economy once reliant on Boeing and aerospace.

As nearby Seattle and Bellevue burst at the seams, Renton could serve as an alternative tech destination.

In 2018, GeekWire examined the possibilities of this emergent hub happening, a dream sidelined by the pandemic. Few tech companies call Renton home. And its most prominent geek-oriented company is Wizards of the Coast, maker of the card game Magic: The Gathering.

Renton’s mixed-use Southport campus, located on the southern shores of Lake Washington, has marketed more than 700,000 square-feet of class A office space directly to tech companies since 2019. It landed its first tenant, consultancy The Partners Group, in 20,000 square feet earlier this month.

Sounders FC president Peter Tomozawa, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Sounders FC majority owner Adrian Hanauer, Unico’s Ned Carner, Renton mayor Armondo Pavone and Sounders FC general manager Garth Lagerwey at the groundbreaking for the Sounders FC Center at Longacres. (GeekWire photo)

Renton got another shot of good news today. Topgolf announced that its golf and entertainment center in the city is slated to open late summer or early fall — meaning the city now will attract soccer, golf and football fanatics. (The Seattle Seahawks’ training facility also is in Renton).

For the Sounders, the move from the Starfire training complex in nearby Tukwila to the Longacres facility in Renton marks “one of the most important moments in our club’s history,” said majority owner Adrian Hanauer. He declined to pinpoint the exact cost of the project, but noted it was in the tens of millions of dollars.

“Our organization has invested a great deal of time and thoughtfulness into the process of both selecting the ideal site for a new home and reimagining what that home represents, for our team and the greater community,” Hanauer said in a statement. “With Longacres, we’ve found a location brimming with Pacific Northwest history where the Sounders – a team that brings its own deep roots, growing since 1974 – can plant our flag and create a home for our next 50 years.”

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