The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, and the leaves are beginning to turn. That means football season is right around the corner.
Even though the Mariners are rolling this season and may actually make it into the postseason for the first time in more than two decades, football is our sport obsession here in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the country.
And there is none bigger than the Seattle Seahawks. The other day, I had the privilege of touring Lumen Field; the football palace built by former Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, with help from local taxpayers, back in 2002.
Located next to T-Mobile Park – where the Mariners play – Lumen Field is a multi-purpose stadium. It’s home to the Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer, the OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League, as well as a site for many concerts and special events – including hosting an appearance by the Rolling Stones a few years back.
But in the fall – when the weather gets chillier and the rain starts coming down – it’s the bona fide home of the Seahawks, and their infamous “12s” – the name given to the team’s raucous fan base.
Take a walk inside Lumen Field and you quickly realize just how large, cavernous and somewhat impersonal modern stadiums of this ilk can be. Everything is built over scale – the ramps, the hallways, and even the grandstands themselves – all aimed at accommodating thousands of spectators.
We started our tour in a massive lobby that includes a huge three-dimensional piece of wall art with more than 300 football helmets, representing professional, college and high school gridiron programs across the state of Washington.
Further down the alleyway is the “Wall of Legends,” which includes pictures of Seahawks Hall of Famers Steve Largent, Walter Jones, Cortez Kenney, and Kenny Easley, along with an assortment of other stars from previous Seahawks’ era. Notably missing from these iconic photos was one of quarterback Russell Wilson, who led the team for more than 10 seasons, but was traded this past offseason to the Denver Broncos. (More on this development later).
We then took an elevator up five stories to a platform over looking the stadium, with a view of downtown Seattle in the distance. Lumen Field has a capacity of 69,000 fans for football, and 40,000 for soccer. According to our guide, the Sounders could easily surpass that number on a regular basis, but the MLS established that artificial capacity so the team wouldn’t have an unfair advantage. Hmm, something doesn’t seem right about that rule!
If you’ve ever seen a Seahawks game in person or watched one on television, you’re probably aware of the 12th man. Back in 1984, the team retired the No. 12 jersey and instead made the number a tribute to their avid fans. Before every game, a former player or local celebrity is chosen to wave the “Home of the 12s” flag, and get the crowd revved up for the game.
We stood on the platform you see on TV and looked up at the pole, sans flag. Then, our guide asked us to yell “Go Seahawks” as loud as we could and our voices reverberated around the stadium – a testament to just how loud Lumen Field is, or can be. When Seahawks fans are in full throat, it’s considered the loudest stadium in the NFL.
In fact, a run by Marshawn Lynch during the 2008 playoffs against the New Orleans Saints elicited such a tremendous applause that it set off a minor Earthquake on the University of Washington’s Richter Scale, and is forever known as the “Beastquake,” named in honor of Lynch’s nickname – Beastmode.
Back down into guts of the stadium, we toured the visiting locker room, walked through the press box, saw the somewhat crammed quarters where TV broadcasters like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman announce the games, checked out the podium where Coach Pete Carroll attempts to explain a Seahawks win and loss, before returning to the main plaza.
Once there, we saw paintings hanging from walls – $1 million worth of them, according to our guide – that were the suggestion of team owner Jodi Allen, whose deceased brother and former owner, Paul Allen, was a big time art collector. If you look closely at some of the paintings now festooning this area, you’ll see actual blueprints of the stadium embossed in the background.
Along another wall is a beautifully colored mural of kids jumping into the air with a rainbow, and city and mountain background behind them, with the words “Fly High” in front of them. Most of us were surprised to learn that the rendering is from a book of poetry written by Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks’ talented wide receiver.
As the tour broke up, our eyes caught site of a large gold wall hanging, resonating in the distance. As we got closer we realized it was a tribute to the only Super Bowl the Seahawks have won – in 2014 – against the Denver Broncos.
So you might ask, is the upcoming NFL Monday Night Football game (Sept. 12) between the Hawks and the Broncos (and Russell Wilson) a bit of irony, a coincidence, or just great theater? Given the history of the two franchises, probably a bit of everything! Hopefully, the 12s will honor their former hero, and maybe, just maybe, the Seahawks will come away with a victory.
One thing is for certain, though. Regardless of the outcome, Lumen Field will be rocking!
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