05/12/2011 2:10 PM
READY FOR KICKOFF: Lance Calloway, head coach for Bellingham United F.C., will lead the new semi-pro soccer team starting next spring. Photo by Sarah C. Richardson | THE WESTERN FRONT
- Bellingham United F.C. is expected to begin its first season in April 2012 in the Pacific Coast Soccer League with plans to play home games at Civic Stadium. It will be the only team from the United States in the league if all works out.
Jeff McIntyre, president of the club and one of the founders of Seattle-based Ruffneck Scarves, said he wanted to start a team in Bellingham because the area already has a strong soccer culture.
“It has always been on my radar and has been a dream of mine to own my own soccer team,” McIntyre said. “The key was to find a community that has its own identity and has a decent enough population where a sports team can flourish.”
So why Bellingham?
“On all the checklists that I had,” he said, “Bellingham checks off on everything.”
McIntyre has lived in Seattle for the past 12 years. He said he normally only comes to Bellingham on vacation. But he wanted to start a team away from the Seattle area in a region with its own soccer “identity” apart from the Seattle Sounders F.C., which plays in Major League Soccer.
McIntyre named former WFC Rangers coach Lance Calloway the head coach of Bellingham United last week. Calloway said he is familiar with most of the players on the Western men’s soccer team, and he expects about half of Bellingham United to be comprised of Viking soccer players.
“We certainly expect a lot of Western players to work out for us,” Calloway said. “Most will be looking to compete with us to get prepared for the fall season. I think this will be great for the Bellingham soccer community.”
Viking midfielder Kellan Brown, who is tied for seventh all-time in goals scored and assists at Western, plays for the semi-professional Tacoma Tide F.C. during the offseason.
“When you play with guys who are higher skilled that makes you better too,” Brown said. “It also helps to keep me in shape and fit, and if you don’t have anywhere to play, you are stuck having to play by yourself.”
Brown said he can only play with Tacoma when the spring quarter at Western is finished, even though the Tide's first match is Friday, May 13.
He said he is thinking about trying out for Bellingham United because it would be much closer to campus than Tacoma, and it would allow him to play soccer and go to school at the same time.
Calloway said the club is also likely to include players from Whatcom Community College and those in the community who are good enough to play semi-professional soccer but don’t play for a collegiate team.
The team will hold three tryouts before next spring. The first will be in Bellingham, the second in Skagit County and the third in Seattle.
McIntyre said the team’s first choice is to join the Pacific Coast Soccer League. The other teams in the league are all based in British Columbia.
If Bellingham United was accepted into the league, its season would run from mid-spring to mid-summer.
McIntyre said he has been in communication with the league president, but the club still has yet to be officially approved. He should know by November if the club has been accepted.
Although the team is semi-professional, McIntyre said he wants to create a professional soccer club atmosphere. The team colors will be black and white, which will keep it simple and professional, he said.
Local Bellingham business leaders make up the team's advisory board, including Aaron Matsen, owner of the Copper Hog, and Mike Diehl, general manager of Diehl Ford. McIntyre said he is also looking at bringing in local vendors for the club's home games.
“We want to make it fun for everybody, but we also don't want to make it a playground,” McIntyre said. “This is not something that we want to be a flash in the pan. We are looking to create an enduring brand and one that everyone in Whatcom County can recognize. This is going to be a serious soccer atmosphere.”
Bellingham United would be the third semi-professional sports team to make its home in Bellingham, joining the Bellingham Blitz football team and the Bellingham Slam basketball team.