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Seattle reveals its FIFA stadium contract for the 2026 World Cup

The agreement offers a behind-the-scenes look at the requirements and costs of co-hosting the world’s biggest sporting event
Lumen Field, like BC Place, will host a number of FIFA World Cup matches in 2026 | LumenField/Twitter

FIFA demands a lot from its landlord.

Seattle’s Lumen Field and Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium were announced as sites of the 2026 World Cup on the same day in June 2022, but the cities have totally different approaches to transparency.

Unlike Vancouver, Seattle city council released copies on Tuesday of its agreements to be among the 16 cities hosting the 48-nation tournament in less than three years.

The stadium-use contract for the home of the Seahawks and Sounders is officially between the U.S. Soccer Federation and First and Goal Inc., the Washington Public Stadium Authority’s private leaseholder. It gives FIFA full control of what goes on inside and outside the building from 30 days before the first match to seven days after the last. But infrastructure for food, beverage, hospitality, media, ticketing and technology may show up well before and remain well after that period.

“The stadium authority shall make available, at no costs … all relevant areas and/or facilities at the stadium for any such set-up, installation and preparation work to be done at the stadium as of three months prior to the day of the opening match until two months after the day of completion of the last match staged at the stadium,” the agreement states.

FIFA also has the “non-exclusive right to have free and unrestricted access to visit and inspect the stadium” at no cost, at any time.

The stadium shall be provided to FIFA free and clear of any advertising, merchandising and brand recognition and it will not be known as Lumen Field when the tournament kicks off. FIFA has the power to temporarily rename the stadium, to remove any reference to the naming rights sponsor, owner or user of the stadium.

There must be two independent sources of power supply and an emergency power system so that “power failure shall not lead to the cancellation or postponement of a match.”

FIFA will decide on temporary overlay infrastructure and provide FIFA delegation members, commercial affiliates, media rights licensees, the hospitality rights holder, media representatives and service providers use of and access to the stadium during the exclusivity period. The stadium authority must secure insurance coverage no later than two years prior to the opening match and pay all insurance costs.

Lumen Field, has an official maximum capacity of 68,250, according to the agreement, and exceeds the 60,000-seat minimum to host a semi-final match, should FIFA decide to hold one there. A minimum five per cent or 2,250 seats is the quota for hospitality seating, whichever is greater.

There is a deadline of mid-2025 for any construction and renovations, to be paid by the stadium. Lumen Field’s to-do list includes lighting and heating/ventilating/air conditioning upgrades, improvements to concession stands, removal of rows containing a total 800 seats in the corners of the lower tier to accommodate a bigger, temporary natural grass pitch over the existing artificial turf.

The contract states the pitch area must be no less than 125 metres by 85 metres and the field of play no less than 105 metres by 68 metres.

Seattle’s stadium contract includes a clause that set June 30, 2023 as the deadline for a final version of hosting requirements.

An appendix about stadium rent says the basic cost, per match day, is only US$20,313. But a slew of additional labour costs pushes the total over US$1.27 million, including security and safety services (US$853,787); facility management (US$196,151); and cleaning and waste service (US$120,384). FIFA will not bear the cost of electricity or water.

FIFA has not decided how busy each stadium will be. Seattle’s local organizing committee estimates between three and eight matches are coming to Lumen Field. Vancouver was expecting to equally split with Toronto the 10 originally allotted for Canada. In March, FIFA expanded the tournament from 80 to 104 matches over 39 days.

Very little has been released by officials in B.C.

In January, the province shifted responsibility to City of Vancouver for $230 million in costs and gave it temporary authority to charge a 2.5-per-cent accommodation tax through 2030. The province said Vancouver city hall was planning to spend $73 million for security and safety, $40 million for venues, $20 million for the FIFA Fan Festival, $15 million for a host city office, administration and volunteer service, $14 million for traffic and stadium zone management, $8 million for decoration and brand protection, and $8 million for insurance. The budget includes a $52 million contingency.

The NDP government has not released a budget for construction and renovation at B.C. Place Stadium, except to confirm that it will need a temporary natural grass pitch.

Multiple sources confirmed that B.C. Place officials are exploring interior renovations to expand the number of VIP suites on level three and possibly build a new broadcast facility inside the stadium.