Week Two. The Seattle Seahawks are keeping pace with the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. A fancy way of saying the Hawks are 0-1.
Century Link Field is a marvel of engineering inspired by the passion of the 12th man. Hailing back into the days of Chuck Knox, Seattle Seahawk fans made themselves known to the rest of the league. Loud, stuck inside a concrete structure known as the Kingdome, opposing teams were met with a deafening roar that often led to false start penalties and otherwise made consistent communication an improbability. But when the Hawks would take the field on offense, you could hear a pin drop.
In 1983, the Seattle Seahawks took advantage of the fans deafening roar as the Seahawks went 9-7, good enough to get into the post season as a wild card. Rookie running back Curt Warner danced his way through the season to the tune of 1449 rushing, and another 325 caught through the air. The excitement was mounting, after Seattle beat Denver, its AFC West division rival, fans across the northwest tuned into AFC Division championship game like no other game. Huddle around car radios, sitting in front of TVS, everyone with illicit anticipation for something special. The Seahawks would beat the Miami Dolphins 27-20. The Los Angeles Raiders would end Seattle’s Cinderella Story in the AFC Conference Championship, but the thrill of the post season left a lingering hope. Ground Chuck was in full effect, and with it came a punishing defense.
Curt Warner’s ACL injury put a damper on the team’s success in 1984. Krieg had the penchant to take a broken play and make miracles, and sometimes those miracles belonged to the other team. Still the fans screamed as the Seahawks put up 12 wins in the regular season, good enough post season play. During the last regular season game of the year, the Seahawks honored their rabid fans and retired the number 12. The bond between the Football team and its fans had been sealed.
In the playoffs, the Seahawks put the Raiders away in the Wild Card game, but Miami would have its revenge, beating the Seahawks 31-10 in the Divisional Round. The future was very bright.
Dave Krieg, would be statistically great in the 1980s, tossing the ball to Seattle’s first Football Hall of Fame member, Steve Largent. The man from Milton would never get a ring, but Dave Krieg would remain in place as the starting quarterback in the final waning hours of the Seahawks early glory years. Under Chuck Knox, the Seahawks would have two more trips to the post season, but without another post season win. All that was left for glory, as it turned out, was Steve Largent’s revenge hit on Mike Harden in 1988.
Little did we know at that time that darkness had already fallen upon the Seahawks. Ken Behring had bought the young NFL Franchise in 1988 and with that went the hope of winning. Ownership seemed content on producing the worst product in the NFL until it seemed feasible to move the Seahawks to California in 1996.
Through the sleepy slumber of a northwest rain, the region, its bond with the Seahawks, the 12th man came alive. Seattle city officials tied Mr. Behring’s plans up in court, and the NFL itself began to levy fines on the franchise. A half million dollars a day. Local celebrities added a comedic element towards the outcry as fans wrote letters to the paper and called into radio shows.
The pressure was too much, Mr. Behring, now the most hated man in the Northwest, sold the Seattle Seahawks to Paul Allen, with the NFL’s blessing as long as it included plans for a new stadium. The Kingdome’s fate was sealed.
Home Field Advantage:
Today, CenturyLink Field is a state of the art facility that is tailored to the needs of the fan. The architectural firm Ellerbe Becket, in association with Loschky Marquardt & Nesholm Architects of Seattle, designed the 1,500,000 sq ft project. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, now owner of the Seattle Seahawks, personally oversaw the design and construction of the stadium. For one, the Kingdome’s deafening roar was as important as keeping the team in town. This is reflected in the shape of the stadium and the materials used in its construction. The open end of the stadium allows for a view of the Seattle Skyline, and from outside the stadium, it’s possible to see the scoreboard on the enclosed end of the field. It is not only possible to see the score, it is more than possible to hear the crowd.
Unlike the Kingdome, Seattle’s home field is outdoors. Originally, the plan included a grass field surface. However, during the time between the implosion of the Kingdom and the opening of the new stadium, the Seahawks played at nearby Husky Stadium and became acquainted with FieldTurf, a high end artificial turf designed to replicate real grass.
Artificial Turf was an attractive option because maintenance cost were lower than a natural grass field. This was especially true in the Northwest were rainfall contributes to the cost of maintenance. A natural grass field would require a 1.8 million dollar irrigation and heating system, plus a much higher overall maintenance cost.
These factors led to the opening of the new venue with FieldTurf. Even though the cost of maintenance has been lower, the artificial carpet originally installed in 2002 has been replaced twice as the artificial carpet does wear down over time. The last upgraded installation was in 2012. The cost of these installations were approximately $500,000 dollars or more for each install, which is still cheaper than the costs of a natural grass field. In addition, the technology behind FieldTurf continues to improve, which makes it a safer surface to play on as it ultimately reduces the risk of injury to the players.
When the 12th man flag gets raised this week, it is unlikely anyone will be thinking about the cost of field maintenance. It is the noise that matters. With fans so loud, even the Guinness Book of World Records took notice. Twice the twelves broke decibel records in 2015. Each time raising the bar on the completion. If given the chance to do it again, I am sure the fans would do so a third time. Even so, one phenomena, The BEAST QUAKE, remains as a testament to the noise. Possibly the greatest run in NFL history with an exclamation point harnessed by the passion of the fans.
This is the Northwest, home of the Seattle Seahawks. Since 2002, Seattle is 85-34, with perfect home records in 2002, 2005, 2012, and 2016. This week Seattle is coming home, let’s make some noise.