Tacoma came close to losing its Premier Development League soccer team during the offseason.
But in the end, owner Mike Jennings decided not only to keep Tacoma Tide FC alive, but also to move the club into its namesake city.
After five seasons at Curtis High School in University Place, the Tide will play this season at Stadium Bowl, starting with the season opener Friday night against the North Sound SeaWolves.
“It’s a great soccer community, Tacoma is, and the Stadium District/Old Town probably represents kind of old soccer from way back,” Jennings said. “So when we first considered the team, I had thought about (Stadium Bowl) – simply socially because I live like a minute away from there, and all my kids went to school there, and it’s a great venue. But it had that nasty AstroTurf that was there. But they have new turf there now, and a new sound system, and the stadium was available, so I thought I’d give it another shot – see if we change the venue … we could change the sympathies of the community and get behind us.”
Beyond the turf and sound, Stadium Bowl is a Tacoma institution of more than 100 years. And then there is that timeless view overlooking Commencement Bay, which caused ESPN to rank it as the high school stadium with the “best view on and off the field” in the country.
Since the stadium opened in 1910 it has been visited by Teddy Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, John Phillip Sousa, Babe Ruth, Bob Hope, Jack Dempsey and generations of high school athletes.
Starting Friday, the names of mostly college-age Northwest soccer prospects will be added to the list – although the Tide roster remained fluid as the days ticked down to the first kick.
“Right around this time I start panicking a little bit because I haven’t had a coherent team to train for any length of time, and our opener is on Friday,” Jennings said Monday. “But it’s just the lay or the land, that’s just the way that it is. … We have a good group of veterans with Jordan (Jennings), with Chase (Tangney), (Spencer) Schomaker will be back, Chris Sanders will be back. Good core, but we have a lot of new guys coming in too: three or four new guys from the University of Washington, a guy from Sacramento State, so some newbies that are going to come in just because that’s the nature of the game. I’d like to tell you that I’m excited and all of that, but it is sort of a wait-and-see just to see what the chemistry is going to be. But I do feel on paper the talent is as good as it’s ever been.”
Maintaining competitiveness isn’t easy in a cluttered Northwest Division that includes the SeaWolves in Everett, Washington Crossfire in Redmond, Kitsap Pumas in Bremerton, as well as Timbers U23 in Portland and British Columbia clubs in Vancouver, Victoria, and Abbotsford.
That many teams in a tight geographic area complicates competition for players. But it reduces travel expenses, which is no small thing in a season that Jennings says could be make-or-break for the Tide’s future in Tacoma.
“At six years, we’re the oldest team in our division – it’s crazy, but that’s the nature of these kinds of things,” he said. “I have to look at it with my eyes open. We’re throwing a lot of resources at it this year to try to make it work, changing the venue and getting out in front of folks. … There’s a lot of soccer people around, and obviously they go to the Sounders’ games in droves and have been very well-represented there. But are they really interested in the local kind of stuff? I think so, in general. I just want to work to see if we can get it in Tacoma. Hopefully we can create a little more buzz this year.”
TACOMA TIDE SCHEDULE
FridayNorth Sound, 7 p.m.
May 23at Washington, 7 p.m.
May 27Kitsap, 7 p.m.
May 29at Portland, 5 p.m.
June 3at Vancouver, 7 p.m.
June 5at Abbotsford, 2 p.m.
June 8Portland, 7 p.m.
June 12Victoria, 2 p.m.
June 15at North Sound, 7 p.m.
June 18at Portland, 7 p.m.
June 21North Sound, 7 p.m.
June 26at Victoria, 4 p.m.
July 2at Kitsap, 7 p.m.
July 8Vancouver, 7 p.m.
July 10Abbotsford, 2 p.m.
July 17Port Vale FC*, 4 p.m.
July 22Washington, 7 p.m.
More information available at www.tacomafc.com.