Get ready for pro women's football
Seattle Times staff reporter
The mere thought of a women's tackle football team in Seattle was crazy to Jim Haugh, president of the Sports and Events Council of Seattle/King County. But Michael Stuart is serious.
And he's got the uniforms to prove it.
This fall, Stuart's Seattle Warbirds will debut in the Women's American Football League wearing gold pants, Cardinal jersey tops and gold helmets emblazoned with a hawk-like bird logo taking a bite out of the Space Needle.
That's right, women's professional football is up and running in Seattle despite Haugh's advising that it wouldn't work among the almost religious Huskies football following and Seahawks fans.
"You'd be crazy to invest in a women's football team in Seattle," Haugh said in January when a different league wanted to expand in the city. "It would be better to go to Spokane or an area that's not so oversaturated with sports."
Plans for a team in Spokane are being negotiated. But Stuart and his family, including daughter Jennifer and mother Carmen, invested $25,000 to have a team based in Kirkland but called the Seattle Warbirds.
Coach of the Eastside Chiefs, a semi-pro men's football team, Stuart read in February about the team looking for coaches. When asked if he wanted to start a team, Stuart, who's also an assistant coach at Sammamish High, said he jumped at the idea.
The Warbirds will be part of a planned 24-team league broken into two conferences and five divisions. The Tacoma Majestics, Rose City Wildcats (Portland) and Vancouver (B.C.) Victory are the other established teams in the Pacific Northwest Division.
Teams are scheduled to play a 10-game season with a championship planned for March, probably in Florida. The Warbirds will open Oct. 27 against Tacoma at Memorial Stadium.
It seems soon, but Stuart already has 73 registered potential players, and tryouts are still being held. Women 19-40 have been invited to try out for the team Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. at Lake Washington and again in August. From there, players will practice Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
"It's a breath of fresh air," said Stuart, both general manager and coach of the team. The women, with various sports backgrounds, have had one team meeting and two full workouts. The Seattle team is further along than others in that it already has uniforms and will share equipment with the semi-pro team.
"When I was younger I didn't play a lot of the sports I wanted, like wrestling and football, because I didn't want to stand out," said Kimberly Hauser, 31, a Kirkland teacher who's been with the team since June. "This is my chance to not have to be the person who stands out."
But the league itself will stand out. It's one of three women's professional leagues in America and the only one running during traditional football season. Another league, the Women's Professional Football League, is kicking off Aug. 11 while the National Women's Football League recently completed its eight-game schedule.
The WAFL would be the Pacific Northwest's first stab at women's professional football.
The track record for such leagues isn't great. From bankruptcy to scandal, many teams have floundered trying to make it in women's football.
Stuart said he receives anonymous negative messages on his hotline, but he also has about 80 people who have already bought season-ticket vouchers for about $240. He's hoping 3,000 to 4,000 fans will watch games at Memorial Stadium.
"It'll work," said Al Burrell, coach of the Rose City Wildcats. "You've got the Mariners, Seahawks, WNBA; why not women's professional football? It's time for women to make some noise."