The new Tacoma Stars returned to town in 2003, and this season a member of the original Tacoma Stars has returned to coach them.
That’s Joe Waters, who joined the Major Indoor Soccer League Stars in 1984 and has remained in the area coaching at Bellarmine Prep and Gig Harbor high schools, Pacific Lutheran University, premier youth clubs and, now, the Professional Arena Soccer League Stars.
“Just looking around here and seeing the Stars’ logo on the boards and stuff like that, it brings back so many memories of the good days,” Waters said as his team practiced at Pacific Sports Center. “It would be very easy to turn around and say, ‘Well, this is not the good old days.’ But there are players out there who want to play this game and want to learn how to play this game and be coached. And it’s fun to do that.”
The current Stars have little in common with the originals, except for the team crest and distinctive argyle-pattern jersey.
The original club played in a fully professional national league – the MISL – and drew an average of more than 10,000 spectators to the Tacoma Dome in the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons. Those Stars drew an indoor-soccer-record 21,728 fans to the 1987 league final against Dallas.
The current Stars typically play before a few hundred fans, who perch on movable bleachers or stand around one of two indoor pitches at the Pacific Sports Center on South 80th Street in Tacoma.
“It’s a great facility,” Waters said. “If we were able to really promote it, 1,200 is about the maximum (capacity). I would say for the home opener against Turlock we probably had about 600 to 800 people in here, and it was a great atmosphere. ...
“Marian Bowers – the owner – has great affection for the Stars, and she’s just trying to bring it back as an identity and also enhance the facility to bring people here.”
The team plays in the PASL, which is a step up from the Premier Arena Soccer League but below the current version of the MISL.
Tacoma competes in the Pacific Division along with four California-based clubs: the Anaheim Bolts, Sacramento Surge, San Diego Sockers and Turlock Express.
Players come from a variety of levels of the outdoor game: Sounders U-23, the Portland Timbers reserves, the old PDL Tacoma Tide and area universities. And some played under Waters at Bellarmine Prep.
They are paid on a per-game basis but nothing close to a living wage. However, a professional playing career is the goal for many of them – whether moving up to the MISL or back outdoors to Major League Soccer or a second-division league.
Helping them provides much of the satisfaction Waters takes from his new duties.
“Every one of these guys comes to training from a job,” he said. “There’s a variety of backgrounds. Some of the guys who really are chasing the soccer dream probably have a couple of jobs just to make it happen. They love the game, and they’re hoping for a break to move to the next level.
“Anywhere they could play soccer is what they would love to do, and any form of kicking the ball around and running after it would be a dream come true to them.”