Thursday, September 11, 2008
Community warms to Kitsap Pro Soccer plans
A meeting at Bremerton High School on September 11th drew local residents, soccer fans and school board and community advocates together to talk about the possible impact a new pro soccer club would have on Bremerton and the high school stadium.
Robin Waite introduced his plans for bringing a professional soccer club to Bremerton in 2009. He told the gathering of about fifty that the "Kitsap Soccer Club" will be putting a website online within the next few weeks at www.KitsapSoccerClub.com.
Debate remains about the surface of Memorial Stadium. Waite would prefer grass with new drainage and a wider pitch. The school district prefers the functionality of Field Turf.
Waite has purchased a scoreboard for the stadium as a goodwill gift to the Bremerton School District. He hopes to add a video screen later if the district approves use of the venue for pro soccer.
Attendees talked about traffic, ticket prices, even what the club would be called. Waite revealed the choices that can be voted on when the club website comes online: Pilots, Paladins, Pumas or Kaisers. There is an 'other' option, which drew a sign of relief from some in the crowd who didn't like any of those suggestions.
The new Kitsap club will be in no way connected to the current Seattle Sounders in name or in league. They will be enough of the same 'franchise' to allow Waite, a current Sounders owner, to transfer them without paying new club fees, but Kitsap will begin life in the Premier Development League (PDL) with hopes of doing more soon after that. United Soccer Leagues First Division will go dark in the state of Washington.
The PDL is a summer league (May-July) that uses college talent to staff clubs' unpaid rosters. It is the third level in the United Soccer Leagues system. Waite says his Kitsap PDL club will be professional and will pay its players. He says this is already happening in Vancouver with the Whitecaps residency club, and may also happen next year when Victoria Highlanders FC join the league.
Further, Waite is in communication with at least six other clubs now at the PDL level who would also like to 'go pro' and build what would amount to a USL Second Division "Western Conference." Waite would like Kitsap to go to that level.
Finally, Waite spoke briefly to me personally about Tacoma Tide FC, a club that will now be a rival 30 miles to the south. He believes that TFC might at some point also want to go pro in the PDL in hopes of moving up to the talked-about USL-2 West.
Kitsap plans to charge $10, $8 and $5 for tickets with the $5 dollar seats being added at both ends of the pitch in roll-away seating. With the addition of around 1,600 end line seats the capacity of Memorial would be raised to around 4,700. Waite said he has hopes to host the Des Moines Menace at some point in an attempt to break their regular season PDL single match attendance record of just under 4,000.
Olympic College has been contacted in regards to use of their parking lots.
Kitsap Pro Soccer Club promised neighbors at the meeting that they would over-staff the first few matches the club played to be sure that traffic did not become an issue around local streets.
The public has had their initial say and now Waite and the School District need to finalize the details before the club can kick off in Bremerton in 2009. Indications from the meeting are that public response is favorable and won't be a barrier in making things work.