When the Sounders take the pitch against Toronto FC on Saturday, every trace of the Seahawks’ game played at Qwest Field last weekend will have been scrubbed away.
And scrubbing is literally what it takes: machines washing away the water-based paints that create the NFL grid of lines and numbers and logos.
At least, that’s the way it is for now.
One of these days, Buck Rogers may fly in to help with a high-tech solution that could cause even George Jetson’s jaw to drop.
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“There was a company in Dallas that got a patent for this idea to do some kind of latent laser lines built into the fabric,” said Gary Wright, Sounders senior vice president for business operations.
“And then what you can do is you push a button and you have a football field that has Seahawks end zones; you push another button and you have it as Western Washington end zones against Central Washington; you push another button and it’s got the state high school playoff end zones; you press another button and you’ve got a soccer field.”
Unfortunately for the company and for multipurpose stadiums everywhere, the idea hasn’t yet become reality. So for now, the solution is decidedly lower tech.
But for the Sounders, how the lines are removed is less important than the fact that they are removed, that the Seahawks and Sounders organizations believe it is important that each team play on its own pristine field.
“I think it shows the level of respect that the Seahawks accord the Sounders; and the Sounders, obviously, we’re as respectful of the Seahawks,” coach Sigi Schmid said.
“And that doesn’t exist in some of the other organizations. It’s great for them to play on a field that doesn’t have soccer lines on it, and it’s great for us to play on a field that doesn’t have football lines on it.”
Since their inaugural game on March 19, the Sounders have had Qwest Field mostly to themselves. That changed last week.
Within minutes of the conclusion of the Sounders’ home game against New England, stadium crews were on the field removing the soccer lines and adding the football markings for the Seahawks’ exhibition home opener. Then, after the NFL game, the process was reversed.
By the time the Sounders returned to Qwest Field for training on Wednesday, the pitch looked so much like it had all season that Schmid forgot a football game had been played there.
“Until you mentioned it now I didn’t even realize that,” Schmid said when asked the next day. “... Stepping out there, it wasn’t even an afterthought. I remember now they sent out an e-mail saying, ‘Look, the lines might not be totally gone.’ But once I got on the pitch, it wasn’t even a concern.”
Major League Soccer has no rule saying league games can’t be played with football lines visible. Some MLS games have been played that way, although such games are becoming rare as more clubs play in their own soccer-specific stadiums.
Sounders player Roger Levesque – who has played on American football fields in both MLS and USL – said it is more of an esthetic issue than a playing concern.
“I think it’s nice to watch more than anything else, for the fans a nice green field rather than lines everywhere,” he said. “But as far as when you’re out there playing, it really doesn’t make much difference.”
Most MLS teams that share fields try to remove the lines from other sports, but with varying degrees of success. Especially on some older fields, the American football markings remain visible in a faded state called “ghosting.”
Wright said that may eventually happen at Qwest Field, too. But the Seahawks and Sounders organizations promise to try to postpone that day and to minimize it.
“I think over a long period of time there will be some ghosting,” Wright said.
“The paint eventually is going to seep through. But I don’t think it will ever be a detriment. You won’t really notice it unless you’re absolutely looking for it. The ghosting should be very, very, very faint.
It’s something we think is important.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808