And the winner is ...

Name-the-team contest winner Lucita Flores-Alvarenga (middle) celebrates winning season tickets to the Kitsap Pumas’ inaugural season, beginning in May 2009. Club owner Robin Waite (left) and executive director Ben Pecora look on. - Wesley Remmer/staff photo
Name-the-team contest winner Lucita Flores-Alvarenga (middle) celebrates winning season tickets to the Kitsap Pumas’ inaugural season, beginning in May 2009. Club owner Robin Waite (left) and executive director Ben Pecora look on.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photo

Kitsap Soccer Club unveils mascot, name-the-team contest winner.

Welcome to Bremerton, Kitsap Pumas.

The Kitsap Soccer Club, the county’s first professional soccer team, announced Monday at club headquarters the franchise’s official mascot is “Pumas.”

Team owner Robin Waite and executive director Ben Pecora unveiled the franchise name and presented Lucita Flores-Alvarenga, the winner of a “name-the-team-contest,” two season tickets for suggesting the mascot.

“It’s been a rather long and circuitous voyage to get to this point,” Waite said. “We’ve been trying to bring soccer over here for the last three years.”

“Paladins” and “Kayaks” also were among the top choices, but after a cougar sighting near the office about a week ago, the decision was cemented.

“It was really fun,” Flores-Alvarenga said of winning the contest and season tickets.

Flores-Alvarenga was randomly drawn from a pool of about 30 people who submitted Pumas during the contest. A board member for Tracyton Soccer, she belongs to a soccer family, with her eldest son a member of the Central Kitsap High School soccer team.

“All three of my sons play soccer,” she said, explaining the tickets won’t go to waste.

For Waite and Pecora, the to-do list is lengthy before the inaugural season begins in May 2009. They now turn to building the staff, selling tickets, promoting the team and renovating Bremerton’s Memorial Stadium, where the team will play home games, among others.

“I think we’re in a unique situation here,” Pecora said.

Waite and Pecora met 15 years ago through ties with the King County Sports and Events Council, sharing a passion for soccer, and have since worked to bring a professional soccer team to the Pacific Northwest. They worked in conjunction with the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer (MLS) to secure the team’s home games at Qwest Field in Seattle, then focused on creating a franchise of their own.

Possible stadium locations, first at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds, then on a parcel of land Waite purchased in Poulsbo, fell through, opening the door for the Bremerton School District (BSD) to offer up Memorial Stadium in exchange for equal return of value in the form of renovations.

“Our mission was to bring a grass soccer stadium to the Northwest,” Pecora said. “That became what is going to become a renovation of Memorial Stadium.”

A video scoreboard and an additional 1,500 seats are among the planned renovations for Memorial Stadium, which currently seats about 3,000 people.

“This will add something to the high school,” Waite said. “It’s something that Bremerton can be proud of ... we’re going to do our best to make (the stadium) better than it already is.”

Waite and Pecora expect the team to play between 15 and 20 games in the United Soccer Leagues Professional Development League (USL PDL) and are planning a four-team invitational tournament, pending league approval, for a week in July.

The invite not only would attract teams from outside the area, but also put Kitsap County in the national soccer spotlight, something Waite said he believes is important.

“What’d we’d like to do is bring in three other teams from outside our area,” Waite said of the potential invite. “That should be a benefit to the area, it’ll be interesting soccer. We’ll get to see some teams we ordinarily don’t get to see.”

The USL PDL spans south to Eugene, Ore., north to Vancouver, British Columbia, and across the country with nearly 70 teams overall. The Pumas and Vancouver Whitecaps are the only two professional teams in the league, which limits the number of 23-year-old and up players per team.

“It’s been a lot of work, a lot of fun,” Waite said. “It’s going to be an interesting year.”

The team’s material mascot will be Pedro the Puma, though Pedro didn’t make an appearance Monday.

Pecora said the public is encouraged to call club headquarters at (360) 377-6008 to reserve season tickets. Individual tickets are $5 (bleachers), $8 (grandstands) and $10 (covered grandstands).

“We will take reservations (now) and do the actual processing in a few weeks,” Pecora said.

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