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Linking to the past

Posted Jun 23, 2011

The home venue of the Seahawks and Sounders FC has a new name – CenturyLink Field. But the importance of the stadium and its past also were honored Thursday when the new logo was unveiled and a naming-rights extension was announced.


Steve Raible, Peter McLoughlin and Karen Puckett had just spent almost 20 minutes extolling the obvious, and even not-so-obvious, virtues of the venue the Seahawks and Sounders FC call home.

Then, Brian Stading stepped to the podium and offered, “I’m not sure words can really justify or explain just how great a stadium this really is.”

QWEST HIGH 5

With the change in the name of the venue to CenturyLink Field, we look back at the Seahawks’ Top 5 performance at Qwest Field, as their stadium was known from 2004-2010:

One. The 2005 NFC Championship game. In their first conference title game since 1983, the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 34-14 on Jan. 22, 2006, to capture the only conference championship in franchise history and advance to the Super Bowl for the first time. Qwest was never more raucous, from start to finish.

Two. Last season’s wild-card victory over the New Orleans Saints. Marshawn Lynch’s electrifying 67-yard TD run in the fourth quarter that triggered seismic activity near the stadium was the signature play in this signature victory, as the Seahawks shocked the defending Super Bowl champions 41-36 on Jan. 8, 2011.

Three. The “false-start” game against the Giants in 2005. The mystic of the 12th Man was defined forever in the 24-21 overtime win on Nov. 27, as the Giants were flagged for 11 false-start penalties. Since the start of that breakthrough season for the Seahawks, there have been a league-high 104 false-start penalties at Qwest.

Four. The Tony Romo wild-card playoff game against the Cowboys in 2006. Or, the Jordan Babineaux wild-card game, if you will, as the Seahawks’ safety pulled down the Cowboys QB short of the goal line and a first down after Romo had dropped the snap on what would have been a game-winning field goal on Jan. 6, 2007.

Five. The maiden voyage. In the first game played at Qwest Field, on Sept. 26, 2004, the Seahawks shutout the division rival San Francisco 49ers 34-0. It was the first step toward gaining control of the NFC West for the next four seasons – when the Seahawks were 10-2 against the West at Qwest while winning four consecutive division titles.

That just about said it all Thursday, when the new logo for the new name – CenturyLink Field – of the stadium that sits on the same site as the Kingdome was unveiled in a midfield ceremony that featured Raible, the radio voice of the Seahawks; McLoughlin, president of the Seahawks, Sounders FC and First & Goal; Puckett, executive vice president and COO for CenturyLink; and Stading, the communication company’s NW Region president.

But the real news at this news conference was that CenturyLink has agreed to a five-year extension for the naming-rights deal on the stadium and event center, which now runs until August 2019.

“This is great. We’re just excited to have the opportunity to be a partner here,” Puckett said after the ceremony – which included the old Qwest Field logo morphing into the new CenturyLink Field logo on the giant replay screen in the south end zone.

“It’s such an important venue for the community, and important for our customers and employees. We’re delighted to continue the partnership.”

Added McLoughlin, “It’s huge. In pretty much any situation like this where you have a merger, the company that is acquiring the older company has the right to chose what they want to do. There was some time where we were working with them to see what they wanted to do. We weren’t exactly sure what their brand strategies were.

“But clearly their brand strategy is to expand the CenturyLink name throughout the country, and we’re glad to be able to help them do that.”

Leave it to Raible to evoke memories of the Kingdome. He was a rookie wide receiver on the Seahawks’ expansion team in 1976, when the Seahawks and Sounders played their home games indoors. The original Sounders of the old NASL played the first game there – April 25, 1976, against the Pele-led New York Cosmos. The Seahawks’ first game in the dome was on August 1, their preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

“This site has a rich tradition, The Kingdome sat on this site,” Raible said. “Now on this site is truly the finest facility in professional sports. Certainly in the National Football League and the MLS, this is the place to be.”

The Kingdome was imploded on March 26, 2000, and replaced in 2002 by what was then called Seahawks Stadium. The venue became Qwest Field in 2004, and now is CenturyLink Field after the company bought Qwest in April.

Raible recalled two moments that will be etched in the region’s sports memory forever: Owner Paul Allen holding the George Halas trophy over his head after the Seahawks won the NFC Championship in the 2005 season; and goalkeeper Kasey Keller striking a similar pose with the U.S. Open Cup last October after Sounders FC defeated the Columbus Crew.

“It shows you what a stadium, what a facility can do and what it can mean for the community,” Raible said. “So we’re here today to honor those people that have helped put this stadium on the map.”

It’s an impressive group that includes Seahawks past and present – Walter Jones, Cortez Kennedy, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Mike Holmgren and Marshawn Lynch; as well as the cornerstones of Sounders FC franchise – Keller, Sigi Schmid, Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani.

Now, as Raible put it, “We begin today with a new chapter.”

By any name, it has been a great home-field advantage for the Seahawks, who have sold out 69 consecutive games; and Sounders FC, whose sell-out streak will reach 40 with tonight’s match against the New York Red Bulls. They have a combined season-ticket base of more than 90,000 fans.

Calling it “the honor of tradition,” Puckett said, “CenturyLink is thrilled to continue this legacy. … For us, this is more than a name on a stadium. This is a partnership that exemplifies our commitment to Seattle, how important Seattle is to our company and how excited we are to serve such a great market with honest and personal service.”

Stading is a relative newcomer to the area. In fact, he’s still in the process of relocating from Denver to Seattle as a holdover employee from Qwest. But he has seen the mystic of the stadium up close while attending three Seahawks games and a Sounders FC match.

“I was on the field for the Giants game last year, and you could not hear yourself talk,” he said. “It was a wonderful, amazing experience.”

So when talk of extending the naming-rights deal began, Stading was among the first to speak up.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Because I had an appreciation for just how big this stadium is for the community and how tightly it is engrained in the community. And that goes beyond just the name recognition and the branding opportunity.

“CenturyLink is just an amazing company in terms of how quickly they assimilate the importance of these types of sponsorships, when you’re looking at employees, community and customers.”

The name recognition of CenturyLink Field will take some time. Just as it did when Seahawks Stadium became Qwest Field.

“Change causes some consternation, I understand,” McLoughlin said. “But we’re really pleased with it, and we’re proud of the sponsorship. It’s great for us to have such a strong company supporting both the Seahawks and Sounders. We couldn’t be happier.”