Update: The Sounders U-23’s drew 1,300 fans to a match at Tumwater High School this summer.
Sometimes a soccer scene can be building momentum and all it takes to make it officially “arrive” is the arrival of a higher level club for that community to rally around. That has been true to a great degree in Seattle with Sounders FC (2009), and to a lesser but still lively degree in Bremerton with the Kitsap Pumas (2009). Bellingham will ignite in 2012 with the arrival of the Hammers. (Edit: The Hammers drew over 1,000 per match in their first season) When will it be Olympia’s turn?
Intro by David Falk
Nearby Lacey is the home of Kasey Keller. Oly has Evergreen State and St. Martin’s college programs. It has a large youth soccer population with clubs such as Blackhills FC (who are developing their own soccer complex) and Oly United among others. It has fierce local high school soccer derbies.
Greater Olympia has played, loved, supported and embraced soccer for decades. Could it all lead to the Capital soccer scene embracing a semi-pro or fully professional, truly local, club one day?
Read about the history of soccer in Olympia here.
I talked with Emmett O’Connell to get his thoughts on Oly soccer at large. Emmett is a local Oly writer, activist and soccer supporter. See his responses below.
How long have you lived in the Oly area and also followed soccer?
Emmett: I’ve lived in Olympia on and off for my entire life. I went to school here and graduated from Evergreen State College about ten years ago. My uncle also played on an early Evergreen Geoducks club soccer team back in the early 80’s.
I’ve played soccer since supermod as a kid, but because it wasn’t really on TV, never really followed it (outside of World Cups) until about eight or so years ago. Then about four years ago, about the time I got an iPod video and a DVR at about the same time, I started following it very closely. I learned how to download games from the internet, and convert them into a format I could watch on my iPod. I watched the Sounders 2007 cup run exclusively on the small screen.
How are you involved in the local or regional soccer scene?
I’m a member of my ECS local, Black Hills Militia. I attend a handful of their events a year when the Sounders are on the road.
I’m not involved at all with any of the local soccer clubs (Blacks Hills FC, Olympia United) mostly because my boys are not old enough to play organized soccer yet. I do try to get out to as many high school and college games as I can.
My outsider perspective sees growth in the sport at the youth and college level down there. Is that what you are seeing?
Evergreen has had a relatively successful team for the past decade or so, but the athletic program over there seems to be at a crossroads and the school seems to give very little support to commutative athletics. While I’m more of a fan of anything Geoducks, the St. Martin’s Saints seem to be approaching soccer in a more thought-out way.
In the short time they’ve been around, they’ve developed a great following among the students and they’ve won their conference.
If Olympia is a “Sounders town,” could it also be a town for a local lower-level semi-pro success? What would it take?
Yes, I certainly think it could, but the level of support would only be able to sustain a team or a couple of teams at a PDL/PCSL level. I think the key would be developing a soccer facility that could support one or two teams. Right now, the high school football/athletic stadiums are the only ones that fit minimum standards (locker rooms, ability to ticket, and a press box). We have a great field at the Regional Athletic Center, but its undeveloped in terms of being able to support even a semi-pro team.
What do you hope happens to Oly-area soccer over the next two-three years?
We develop a soccer facility at the level of a high school football facility. A thousand seats or so, locker rooms, and a press box.
Our college teams continue their success and begin getting to post season tournaments regularly.
I hope we someday field a PDL team (Note: Everett welcomed North Sound SeaWolves of the PDL in 2011. Tacoma have had Tide FC (now Sounders U-23) since 2006. Bremerton have had Kitsap Pumas since 2009). While a single USL-Pro team I don’t think would work, a semi-pro team I think would (especially with the right facility). I don’t have any facts to back this up, its just a feeling.
And, then once we start fielding the team, it qualifies for the US Open Cup, and in the third round we draw the Timbers and beat them in our new 1,500 seat stadium at the Regional Athletic Center.
Editors Notes: Capital City FC came onto the OLY scene two years ago. After initially trying to join a nationally organized Hispanic league, the club eventually split founders, with Thurston County Premier FC coming to life. After that Capital City changed from an “FC” to an “SC” and spent money to develop a new website. Since then founder Carlos Dextre dropped me an email suggesting he was allowing the club to go dormant until further notice. Olympia remains without a high-level adult soccer club in a national league. Thurston County Premier is a member of the Super-20 league of the USL.