Just south of Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle, tucked between Magnolia and Queen Anne, imagine Interbay Stadium filled with 1,200 Ballard FC cheering soccer fans. As the final whistle blows, kids scramble to line up for autographs from players who are maybe only a decade older than they are and have just put on a show of soccer brilliance.
This is the scene former Sounder Lamar Neagle and his fellow co-founders and partners Sam Zisette and Chris Kaimmer envisioned when in 2021 they cofounded Ballard FC – the region’s first neighborhood-based semi-professional soccer team. Bridging the gap between the heights of professional soccer and the origins of the game at the youth recreational level, Ballard FC is a unique addition to the robust soccer scene around Puget Sound.
“Seattle has a long tradition of celebrating the city through its sports teams, whether that is the Seahawks and Mariners, or Sounders and now Reign. We see the same opportunity for Ballard FC but, as a smaller club, we will be able to provide a different, family-friendly game day experience and be able to connect players and coaches to our fans,” says co-founder Sam Zisette.
Now the team’s inaugural 2022 season is about the begin: Ballard FC will compete in the USL League Two Northwest Division and eight home games will be played at Interbay Stadium between May 21 and July 17.
Designed for family fun
The Ballard FC family-friendly focus will include free admission for kids 5 and under and re-entry privileges for all fans. That means no hassle for parents who need to take an overly excited toddler to the adjacent park to run around at halftime or need to dash back to the car for a forgotten sunhat.
Through partnerships with Ballard Youth Soccer and other youth organizations, the team will also have opportunities for young fans to take part in the pre-game walkout with players and to stand field-side as ball kids during matches.
Several themed games with special guests and promotions are also planned. The match against Olympia on May 30 will be a celebration of local muralist Henry and include a meet-and-greet with the artist as well as a creation station for artists of all ages.
Ballard FC Players are excited to see young fans in the stands
The team’s roster includes top talent from local universities, most of whom grew up in the greater-Seattle area. Midfielder Cale Spence is particularly excited to be a part of his hometown club. “I grew up in Ballard. I know how strong the soccer culture is in this community. It’s going to be a special experience as the season unfolds and we see families filling the stands and connecting with us.”
The intimate confines of Interbay and the ongoing efforts by the club to become an active member of the community will offer chances for young fans to connect with exciting up-and-coming players. Spence understands the impact that can have on players just starting to learn the game, “I was 10 years old when the Sounders played their first MLS season. It had a huge influence on my love of the game and desire to develop as a player.”
The difference with Ballard FC will be the nearness young fans will be able to get to the players, both on and off the field. Near enough to look up to them and dream – that is the big gift this small club wants to give families this season.
Ballard FC has sold out their opening game on May 21st, but tickets are still available for remaining home matches and can be purchased here.
Know before you go:
- Interbay Stadium is served by several bus routes, including the RapidRide D Line.
- Dress for the weather; stadium seating is uncovered.
- Seated General Admission tickets are $15 or free for kids 5 and under.
- Concessions will be available through partnerships with Mainstay Provisions, Ethan Stowell’s Ballard Pizza Co., and other outside vendors.
Published April 10, 2022
Nils Dahlgren is a freelance writer and father of three based in Seattle. He also blogs at awesomesolodad.com.