Sports

Kitsap County lands professional soccer team

A partnership between the Bremerton School District (BSD) and the newly formed Kitsap Soccer Club has brought professional soccer to Kitsap County, according to a statement released by the franchise Tuesday.

The franchise, in its infant stage and being built from the ground up, currently has only two employees — club owner Robin Waite and Ben Pecora, who is handling public relations. The team’s name, logo and colors have not been decided and a schedule has yet to be released.

“We’re really building the franchise from scratch,” said Pecora, the former director of the Kitsap Peninsula Sports Council.

One thing is certain: Waite and Pecora are ready to bring professional soccer to the Kitsap Peninsula.

Kitsap Soccer Club will join the Seattle Sounders as part of the United Soccer Leagues (USL).

“The franchise has been approved by the USL commissioner and we have secured a fantastic home at Bremerton (High School) Memorial Stadium. What we need now is for the people of Kitsap to help us name our team,” Waite said. “This is only the first step of many — team name, team colors, sponsors, suppliers ... It’s a long list — but this is indeed a very exciting time for all of us in Kitsap.”

The to-do list begins with finalizing details of an agreement with BSD, allowing the club to play its home games at the district-owned Memorial Stadium.

The agreement gives BSD “fair value” in exchange for opening the stadium for home games, according to Wayne Lindberg, BSD director of finance and operations.

“We kind of have a memorandum of understanding,” Lindberg said. “We’re pretty much in agreement on most things. It’s actually shaping up as we anticipated.”

Specifics of the exchange are still in the works, Lindberg added, but artificial turf and upgraded restroom facilities have been discussed as possibilities. A new video scoreboard, donated by the franchise, is currently being installed.

“The big challenge right now is to get the stadium issues figured out... We will be involved in all aspects of renovation,” Pecora said, explaining both parties are on the same page. “(BSD) is probably the most innovative leadership group we’ve been involved with. They’ve worked on it just as hard as we have.”

Lindberg said the stadium will remain high school-oriented, meaning the district will have final say on advertising and practice times.

“We want to make sure it’s still a high school field and not a professional stadium,” he said. “That’s the balance we have to make.”

Most home games will be played Saturday evenings, avoiding conflict with school events, but the field won’t be open to the club for practice.

“It’s not a practice facility,” Lindberg said, adding that the club will be allowed to practice once a week during game weeks. “They’ll have reasonable priority.”

The stadium deal is tentatively a three-year agreement, with a three-year renewal option, and the franchise hopes to draw big crowds.

“We want to set the (USL) per-game attendance record,” Waite said.

To reach that goal, Waite added, the club would need to draw about 3,500 people per game, which is more than the stadium’s current 3,000-seat capacity.

“We’re looking to add about 1,500 seats,” he said.

Meanwhile, Waite has asked the public to help name the team and a Web site is established where fans can vote until midnight on Oct. 25.

Four potential names are listed on the site — Kaisers, Pilots, Paladins and Pumas — but fans can submit any name they’d like.

“This is Kitsap’s team, this is for the people here,” Pecora said. “There’s a big contingent of people connected to the sport. The phones are ringing off the hook.”

Along with establishing a team name and finalizing the stadium deal, Waite and Pecora are looking at coaching candidates, acquiring equipment, establishing a youth initiative, settling into an office on Wheaton Way in Bremerton and expanding the club Web site.

“It’s just two guys grinding it,” Pecora said. “We’re excited, we can’t wait.”

To vote on a team name or to learn more about Kitsap Soccer Club, visit http://kitsapsoccerclub.com.

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