Itinerant Fan

CenturyLink Field

CenturyLink Field is a beautiful football stadium in a beautiful city, located in the SoDo (South of Downtown) section of Seattle and home to a Seahawks team that has always boasted one of the NFL’s most passionate fan bases even before it was finally rewarded with a championship after the 2013 season. All of that alone is reason enough to check out pro football in the Pacific Northwest.

But if you’ve paid attention, all of that stuff is likely not the most prominent thing you’ve heard about CenturyLink. No, the thing that tends to put the stadium front and center is the noise. The 12th Man has a way about bringing the noise, sometimes at record-breaking levels. and if you’re planning your first trip there, you may find yourself wondering: Does it really get that loud there? At least, that’s what’s been going through my mind for a while as I’ve contemplated making a trip there.

Finally, the opportunity presented itself in the form of a free weekend and low airfares, so I made plans to check out a Seahawks home game with friend and Seattle resident Vagabond Designer. I brought a raincoat but not earplugs, and only time would tell whether that was a mistake.

  •   The Approach

    As mentioned above, CenturyLink Field is located south of downtown (and south of the Pioneer Square section of town as well), right next to Safeco Field. I don’t know this for sure, but it looks from ground level and to the naked eye as though Safeco is actually larger than CenturyLink because of its behemoth retractable roof, and in what other city can you say the baseball stadium looks more imposing than the football stadium? But I digress.

    CenturyLink’s location means it’s easily accessible from a number of directions, including the always-trafficky Interstate 5 and I-90 that approaches from the east. There are parking lots scattered all around, including a pretty big parking structure just south of the stadium, but you can expect the usual heavy traffic if you’re driving in.

    However, there is an alternative in SoundTransit, which operates the region’s Link light-rail service. The main light-rail line travels between downtown Seattle and the airport and runs right by the stadium. I took light rail straight from the airport and, despite an expected influx of passengers decked out in football gear as we got closer to the stadium, it was very hassle-free.

    One thing to consider, though: When looking at a system map, you may see the “Stadium” stop and automatically assume that’s the station you need — and you would not be wrong. But that stop is closer to Safeco than it is to CenturyLink, and you’ll likely find it super-crowded as game time approaches. As it turns out, Vagabond Designer told me to meet him one stop north, at the International District station, and from there he led me through a plaza and across a pedestrian bridge that led straight into the stadium parking lot, a walk of no more than a quarter-mile. So it seems clear to me that the International District stop is the better one to use.

    If you’re using the Sounder, the region’s commuter train service, or even Amtrak, your arrival is made even more convenient by the fact the King Street Station is right there, just northeast of the stadium. A walk up the staircase to the aforementioned pedestrian bridge, then a descent to the parking lot, and you’re there.

    For drivers, one easy way to navigate the parking ordeal is to pay for parking ahead of time. You can do that through a service called Parking Panda. Their website allows you to compare parking options based on price and location. You can reserve a guaranteed spot ahead of time and drive to the stadium with peace of mind. Take a look in the window below:

     
  •   The Build-Up

    Booking.com

    Just look around — there’s plenty to do nearby, and not just the usual pre-NFL game tailgate scene. The alleyways around the district — at least those that have heavy pedestrian traffic — are usually dotted with food trucks and street vendors selling snacks, beverages and souvenirs. It makes for a pretty lively atmosphere that you can experience just by walking to the game.

    If you’re looking for something more traditional, sports bars and brewpubs proliferate on First Avenue South, which runs along the west side of the stadium, and in the blocks just north near Pioneer Square.

    Or, if you follow the handy tip listed above and take light rail to the International District station, you can find all sorts of restaurants within walking distance of the stadium — some of them Asian, owing to the district, and some not. For our part, we did perhaps the most Seattle thing a visitor could do and stopped off for a coffee at Starbucks while waiting out the rain a little bit.

  •   The Ambiance

    Definitely give CenturyLink Field this: It is one of the most unique-looking stadiums in the NFL. It’s generally a horseshoe-shaped venue with an open end that allows people inside to view the downtown skyline (though that view has been obscured a bit by a high-rise condo that’s a block away). There’s another reason to look at that open end, though: The Hawks Nest, the triangle-shaped seating section that’s topped by a vertical videoboard. You just don’t see features like that in many stadiums, and it’s one of those things that you immediately identify with Seattle and CenturyLink Field.


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    Meanwhile, the seating areas along each sideline are covered by a distinctive arched overhang that covers most of the upper deck from the rain (though not us, since our seats were in the corner and just out from under the overhang). I’m no architecture expert, but I’m willing to bet it’s this feature that helps amplify the crowd noise in the stadium.

    Ah yes, the noise. It’s understandable to be skeptical about the claims of “world’s loudest stadium” and such. But there really is no questioning the passion of the fan base that’s known collectively as the 12th Man, and the Seahawks go to great lengths to make sure the fans know they’re appreciated — banners and flags with the number 12 on them are everywhere (12 is actually retired by the team in tribute to the fans), and a cool pregame ritual involves the raising of a 12th Man flag at the stadium’s southern end by a person of prominence.

    Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for the fans to get loud. Before the game, Vagabond Designer, whose love of live rock concerts is another reason he and I are friends, told me that he found his ears ringing after only one live event in his life — a Seahawks game. When he said that, I really started thinking this whole loud thing was no joke.

    Before the game, though, you can get your throat ready for some screaming by checking out all the stadium has to offer. We took a stroll through the main concourse on the stadium’s west side, which had plenty of cool displays — including a giant Super Bowl XLVIII display (popular among the picture-takers) and a mural containing the helmet of every high school football team in the state of Washington. You can also sample your food choices as well — I was particularly pleased to see the presence of Ivar’s, a local seafood joint that offers fish ‘n’ chips and chowder, though I didn’t partake on this day.

    Our seats were in the corner of the 300 level — not prime seats by any means, but you could see everything, including the videoboards at the north end and that nice view of the skyline. As mentioned, they were not protected from the rain, so the raincoat I brought really got a workout, especially in the second half when the rain picked up.

    Oh, and that happened to be when the noise picked up as well. Seattle was mostly sluggish in the first half and went into the break trailing, then turned it up to beat the struggling Giants going away. It got noticeably loud for me at two points: Right before the opening kickoff and after the Seahawks took the lead in the second half. I don’t think it was record-breaking, and my ears weren’t ringing, but I can legitimately say it was about as loud as any sporting event I’ve been to. And hearing that for myself was definitely worth the experience.

The Particulars

Home Teams
Seattle Seahawks

Address
800 Occidental Ave. South
Seattle, WA 98134

Year Opened
2002

Capacity
67,000

Upcoming Events
All times local
Eintracht Frankfurt at Seattle Sounders FC
Saturday, July 8, 2017
1:00 pm
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D.C. United at Seattle Sounders FC
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
7:30 pm
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San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders FC
Sunday, July 23, 2017
7:30 pm
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Metallica with Gojira and Avenged Sevenfold
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
6:00 pm
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Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders FC
Saturday, August 12, 2017
1:00 pm
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