MLS Soccer

Seattle Sounders owner Hanauer blends athletics and art

Staff photographer

It has been an unusually stressful season for Seattle Sounders FC, what with injuries, suspensions, a record number of losses and a playoff fate coming down to the final six games.

Through it all, owner Adrian Hanauer has taken comfort in his daily return home, where he is greeted by his dog, glimmering Lake Washington and his collection of artwork.

“I was thinking about the dog, for instance,” Hanauer said. “I come home, he’s always happy, wagging his tail, whether we won or lost the game. My art. I get to just enjoy it. … There are a few — three or four or five — things like that in my life that sort of shut out the reality a little bit. Or maybe that is the reality, and the other part isn’t. My art is part of that.”

This season, Hanauer’s appreciation of art has spread to the Sounders office in downtown Seattle, where a public space called The Ninety houses a growing collection of Posters by the People. That’s a program introduced this season that allows local artists to submit work interpreting each Sounders home match.

“I would say it was plagiarized to some degree (from) L.A.,” Hanauer said. “The Galaxy had something similar. But they had gone out and hand-selected graphic designers to design posters for them and I liked the more democratic version of that, where we asked our fans and artist-partners to contribute.”

One of the selected submissions — for the July 20 match against San Jose — was created by Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

“Me growing up in Europe, I had to take the train a lot to place(s) — training, things like that,” Frei said. “Underpasses and train yards you’d always see those bright graffitis. I think most kids just doodle and do a little bit of drawing here and there. That’s how I started getting into more graffiti and things like that. And through the years it’s just progressed more into following guys who take you to the next level. … For me, it’s more getting away from the game a little bit — the pressure and all that.”

That blend between athletics and art also came naturally to Hanauer, who cited his own European-influenced upbringing.

“My father was German,” he said. “He was intellectual — very cultured, very well read, classical scholar — and influenced the kids. Soccer — being more of a European sport, certainly when I was growing up — soccer, skiing, tennis, those were sort of the three sports. Art. Classical music. Food. All the sort of pretentious European interests.”

Hanauer admits he didn’t instantly bond with all of it. There was the occasional childhood eye roll at yet another trip to yet another museum.

But his first business after college bordered on art — literally. He and his brothers started a picture-framing business. But Hanauer calls that coincidental: “It wasn’t for love of art at that time. It was because we thought we could build a better picture-framing company.”

The business succeeded, and it served as a reintroduction to the art scene. By his early 30s, Hanauer’s growing interest led to purchases.

“I’ve never bought expensive art,” he said. “There are collectors in Seattle who have real art. I have fantastic art, but it speaks to me and it’s never been about investing or value. It’s been about buying things that I want to live with.”

Hanauer speaks those words from a table on the ground floor of his home. Looming behind him is one of his favorite works — a Gaylen Hansen piece he pursued with persistence. It shows a recurring Hansen character — the Kernal — cooking over a campfire while ghostly white wolves watch.

Around the corner there is more art. And upstairs. Artists not just from the Northwest, but from Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Germany. Those are soccer nations — and not by pure coincidence. Some of Hanauer’s collection comes from Sounders scouting trips.

“I don’t have this innate sense of art or education about art that makes it interesting to me,” he said. “It’s just, I guess, this emotion that speaks to me. … I love it, and I get to live with it.”

These days he also gets to work around it, as poster after poster turns up on the walls of The Ninety and on the club website at

“It’s a cool thing,” said artist and Sounders supporter Likkit Pocinwong, whose submission was selected for FC Dallas’ visit in June. “There are a lot of artists in the community who are also Sounders fans. It was just an outlet to be artistic and show the artistic side of our fandom.”

As the posters collection grows, Hanauer hopes to display some at the Starfire training facility in Tukwila. Then maybe at the offices of business partners. His own framing company seems a natural.

“As it builds, I think we’re like to incorporate new pieces to it,” Hanauer said. “Perhaps our fans are the ones voting next year, instead of a small panel that we’ve created in-house to vote on the winners. Hopefully we can get more widespread involvement. Maybe we get other players involved. Maybe we get more celebrities that we get involved to participate. So the program will evolve, but the plan is to keep going.”


U.S. Soccer announced Sunday that Sounders forward Clint Dempsey has been excused from traveling to New England to join the national team for its Tuesday friendly with Brazil.

“I had a good conversation with Clint,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in a release. “(His hamstring) is still not 100 percent, and we agreed it’s best to let him stay in Seattle to allow him to continue making progress ahead of next month’s match against Mexico.”

The Sounders return to MLS play at San Jose on Saturday.