Celebrating 50 Years of Title IX

This month marked the 50th anniversary of the Education Amendment Act. The law’s landmark Title IX was instrumental in advancing gender equity in schools and removing barriers for girls and women in sports. To celebrate, we’re spotlighting a handful of the incredible athletes who have passed through the Tukwila community.

Kat Roche, Major League Rugby Referee
Kat is a former college rugby player and self-proclaimed fitness junkie, most notable for breaking new ground in Major League Rugby by becoming the first female lead referee. Her first MLR match as lead referee was right here in Tukwila last year when the Seawolves defeated the Houston SaberCats. Her career with MLR continues to have an impact on the world of sports, inspiring other women to pursue similar positions.

 

 

Carly MacKinnon, Seawolves Marketing and Communications Director
Carly is the Marketing and Communications Director for the Seawolves as well as a 15s player in the Seattle Rugby Club, where she was part of the team’s 2015 and 2016 USA Rugby Women’s Cup National Championship team. She is also a certified USA Rugby Coach and has spent years coaching high school girls in the sport.

 

 

Lauren Barber, Seawolves Director of Youth and Community Development
Lauren is the director of Youth and Community Development for the Seawolves, where she helps cultivate the next generation of rugby players in our community. A four-time national college rugby champion, Lauren has achieved a variety of leadership roles in the world of rugby, including assistant coach for the professional women’s Premier Rugby Sevens Headliners and vice chair of the youth state-based governing body, Rugby Washington.

 

Sierra Shugarts, WWU Alumni and 2016 National Player of the Year
Sierra was team captain at WWU, leading her team to the school’s first national title in 2016 and earning her Player of the Year honors. From there she traveled overseas, playing soccer in both Sweden and the Czech Republic, before returning to the PNW for new opportunities. But her long and decorated career first began right here in Tukwila at Starfire Sports. Now, Sierra has her sights set on giving back to the game which gave so much to her by putting on the jersey once again, only this time as “coach.”

The Seawolves Championship Hunt Begins With A Stunner

Guest blogger, David Drown details the experience attending the Seawolves’ Western Conference Semifinal—his first ever rugby match.

My first time going to a Seattle Seawolves match was a lot like my first time going to a Seattle Sounders match: both were playoff matches and both were unforgettable. But what set the Seawolves apart was its intimacy. The ability for a stadium a fraction of the size of most pro arenas to produce such a vibrant atmosphere left me questioning the value we place on our big box entertainment venues. 

Don’t get me wrong, watching a professional sport alongside 30,000+ screaming fans in an architectural superstructure is an incomparable experience. But as stadiums grow in size and amenities, the actual sport itself often becomes lost amidst the fanfare. All kinds of distractions seep in, forcing your attention toward everything but the game. What I experienced this past Sunday in Tukwila felt like the antithesis to that. Watching the Seawolves in the Western Conference Semifinal at Starfire Stadium felt like a return to the purity of sport, a practice in athletic mindfulness that reoriented the fan-athlete relationship and reminded me of why we even show up in the first place.

The threat of rain loomed overhead as my partner and I made our way to the front gate of Starfire, a common backdrop for many Seattle sporting events. Teenagers tossed a rugby ball back and forth in the parking lot, weaving their way in and out of the sea of couples, families, and groups of friends funneling toward the stadium. I studied their movements in detail, hoping to get a crash course in the general flow of rugby before watching my first ever match. 

Before I knew it, we were inside the stadium. But something about that distinction didn’t feel right. Unlike most sports venues, there wasn’t a clear boundary between inside and out. The grounds felt open and fluid, almost indistinguishable from the surrounding neighborhood. This feeling extended to the Starfire staff themselves, with ticket sellers, concessions operators, and merch vendors all operating like a tight community—like they knew each other well beyond their occupations. After exploring the merch tents, we grabbed ourselves a couple of drinks and a giant pretzel for pennies on the dollar and headed for our seats.

The thundering roar of fireworks announced the introduction of the Seawolves. Fans stood and cheered wildly, many still pinching themselves, happy to be back in the postseason. John, a season ticket holder from West Seattle and Seawolves fan since day one, explained that “last season was a tough one… [but] it’s good to see all the fans out tonight.” What sets Seawolves games apart for John is the camaraderie, even “the way [opposing] fans are welcomed” here at Starfire. There isn’t the fan aggression you might encounter at some other professional sporting events. “There’s something special here,” John says.

The match began with a flurry of action. Their opponent, the San Diego Legion, took an early lead, making a try just a few minutes into the first half. Even as a new fan my heart sunk, worried that this could spell the beginning of a long and painful night. But the Seawolves answered back and then kept answering back. Soon they were ahead with what felt like a comfortable lead heading into halftime. I hesitated to get too excited though. Superstitious tendencies from my days religiously following my favorite hockey team bubbled to the surface. Just 40 minutes into my time at Starfire and I felt a connection with the sea of green and blue filling the stands, and I hesitated to say anything that might jinx the game.

At the start of the second half, we made our way down behind the endzone to get closer to the action. The Seawolves maintained their momentum, charging back and forth down the pitch with ease. A young fan next to me piped up, “Come on dad!”, as the horde of giant players tumbled toward us. It marked a surreal moment when the lives of the professional athletes transcended the pitch. Not something usually experienced in giant sports stadiums, I suddenly looked around and realized that many of the people near me had direct connections with the players; some even family; some even “dad.”

What just 50 minutes before looked like a mess of players frantically running about knocking into one another quickly crystallized into an organized sway of forces. The flow of the game has a way of revealing itself even if you have no knowledge of strategy. The groups of players move about the pitch like flocks of starlings, their murmurations crafting complex shapes and patterns that ask the viewer to let go of rigid expectation. “Rugby is a continuous play sport,” describes Brent, a Seawolves fan and wheelchair rugby player, “those types of sports [just] take longer to gain traction.” But like most Seawolves fans, Brent is optimistic that the Seattle area is becoming more open to this often underappreciated game.

It became clear well into the second half that this was a night for celebration. As we hit the 80 minute mark the game ended just as it began, with a thunderous display of fireworks. The final score, Seawolves 43 – Legion 19. Standing along the perimeter of the pitch transfixed by the lights and sounds, my partner and I were caught off guard when the gate suddenly opened and fans rushed out onto the grass to congratulate the players. This sort of interaction was so foreign to us. Fans are fans and athletes are athletes, we thought. But Starfire seemed unconcerned with that distinction which pervades so much of pro sports.

After we made our way back through the parking lot, I worked my way through memories from the night. I tried parsing out the moments, segmenting the groups of fans, sectioning off chunks of time in an attempt to more easily understand the night. But this felt counter to what I had just experienced. It quickly became evident to me that what separated watching a Seawolves match from other pro sporting events was its very lack of separateness at all levels. From the openness of the stadium to the interaction between players and fans, there was no clear beginning or end to the Seawolves experience. The Seawolves are a team within a family, within a community; there is no division; there are no distractions. This is sport at its essence.

With this huge first round win, the Seawolves head to Houston to take on the SaberCats in the Western Conference Final on Saturday, June 18th at 4pm. Head over to Billy Baroo’s in Tukwila for the official watch party where the Seawolves community will come out in full force—including Rucky, the beloved team mascot—to cheer on the hometown heroes.

Playoff Rugby Comes to Starfire

The hunt isn’t over until it’s over. Seawolves Rugby are in the playoffs after a whirlwind of events saved them from an early end to the season. The team also scored home field advantage for the first round of postseason play against the San Diego Legion. Which means the Western Conference Semifinal are happening right here in Tukwila! Be a part of this unforgettable season and catch the game this Sunday at Starfire. Help your Seawolves keep the hunt alive as they look to move to the Western Conference Final.

When: Sunday, June 12th | 7pm
Where: Starfire Sports
Price: Tickets start at $39 and are going quick! Grab yours here

 

Military Appreciation Night at Starfire!

Kick off Memorial Day Weekend with a Seawolves rugby match against the Houston Sabercats! Celebrate and honor those who have served or are actively serving. Military discounts on Seawolves merchandise, service recognition, and more. It’s the final regular season home match of the season, so you don’t want to miss it!

Tickets start at just $31! Grab them here.

Kids ages 6-14 are invited to attend the Run with the Pack pre-game youth camp at 5pm, which includes:

    • (1) Standing room ticket for the game
    • Seawolves Rugby t-shirt
    • ‘Meet & Greet’
    • 10% off Seawolves merchandise
    • Autograph session to end the camp

The Sounders Return to Starfire

Guest bloggers, Robyn Stevens & Becca Rust, detail their experience attending a Seattle Sounders match at Starfire Sports. But not just any match, round 32 of the U.S. Open Cup—the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the U.S.

There’s something quintessentially Pacific Northwest about driving to a sporting event with the sunroof open, only to be met with a full-on downpour during the match, followed by clear, brisk night skies for overtime. Naturally, no one, from the fans to the players, were about to be deterred by a little rain. 

Neither of us knew much about soccer, and even less about the venue, Starfire Sports. But as soon as we arrived, fans and employees alike were all enthusiastic to share their passion with us, informing us along the way about the traditions, rules, and history that accompany the experience of a Sounders game at Starfire. There were food trucks and concessions, a live DJ, a beer garden looking out over the pitch, performances by Sound Wave (the official Sounders band), and even glimpses of some local wildlife—most notably a bunny who ran onto the pitch, disappointed to be fooled by the high-quality synthetic turf. If only he realized that five of the 12 total outdoor pitches are in fact grass, and he just happened to hop onto the wrong one.

Before the match began, we explored around the campus, learning about the various fields and all the different events they’re used for: youth teams, Sounders practice pitches, and adult indoor soccer leagues. There’s a cafe and restaurant in the athletic center, with good pizza and a variety of beers on tap. We learn that the players come out through a tunnel, where you stand close enough that you could high-five them as they make their way onto the pitch, and that here, getting an autograph from your favorite player after the game is a breeze. 

Waiting in line to pose with the recently-won CONCACAF Cup, we spoke with an old-school Sounders fan from Spanaway, Joseph Lieu, who loved Starfire games because “it’s much better and way easier to meet players than at Lumen Field. There’s more room to stand and meet and talk to the players one-on-one after the game. That’s how I met the entire team 8 years ago.” It is because of growing up going to Starfire games that Joseph is now going through school to become a sports photographer. 

A group of exuberant fans boasted to us about who had traveled furthest for the event, citing Port Orchard, Silverdale, and even one as far as Burlington, who had driven over an hour and a half to watch the Sounders. Chris Matala, however, didn’t have to travel nearly as far. Chris works in Tukwila, and is a frequent visitor for Starfire. “It’s fun to see the Sounders play here, to have pros on the field because most of the time it’s kids on the field. But those kids, they have more passion than the pros, because they are trying to get to the pro level.” We asked if they had favorite places to go out after the game, and they said that with all the great options, they couldn’t pick just one. Ryan Bennett piped up; “Tukwila has a lot to offer!”

When the match finally began, the crowd grew silent, and stood ceremoniously, raising their hands wide. The players walked proudly onto the pitch in two lines, and the ritual began. Clapping in unison, the crowd rhythmically grew louder and faster. And then the players were off, electrified by the intensity of the crowd. 

The Emerald City Supporters (ECS) fan club showed up in force. A quarter of the stands made sure the crowd never missed a beat with their chants and cheers. They had huge flags waving and bolstering the players tirelessly during the game. The crowd was rowdy and rambunctious like you want at a Sounders game, but remained family-friendly. 

Most of these players aren’t the Sounders’ typical starting lineup. Because of the nature of this tournament, it’s a great opportunity for coaches to put in newer, or B-string, players to get more time on the pitch. Still, plenty of recognizable names were out there, including local Kelyn Rowe. Kelyn grew up playing at Starfire as a kid, and described it as “cool, nostalgic to be back” on his (truly) home turf. It’s been about five years since the Sounders last played a match at Starfire, and it’s obvious the players have missed it. Forward Fredy Montero said, “It’s always fun to play with a crowd that is close, and we can hear every single one of them screaming and having fun.” The attendance at Starfire that night was 3,773, and while that may not seem like much to a Lumen Field regular, that’s nearly a packed house for the 4,000-seat Starfire Stadium.

The Sounders opponent for the night, the San Jose Earthquakes, managed to score twice before the Sounders came back with an answer. The rain started to drizzle, and we took it as a sign. The Sounders returned again to tie it up with just a few minutes left in regulation. During the action, we had the good fortune to meet Mark Bickham, one of the founders of Starfire Sports. Mark warned us that in this tournament, there are no ties. So when at the end of the 90 minutes (plus stoppage time) the score was still 2-2, we were in for an extra two 15-minute halves. By then the rain was coming down like only Western Washington rain could, but despite the overtime and the stoppage, fans stayed glued to the game. Slide tackles became involuntary, and splashes of rain gave players little halos when they headed the ball. Where the crowd noise used to rise as a player moved toward the San Jose goal line, now the crowd was excited just to see them cross midfield. The roar of the crowd never let up, outmatched only by the periodic rumble from a passing “Sounder” train, seemingly cheering on the team in its own right. 

Flash-forward to the end of overtime and neither team managed to score a goal. This meant  time for penalty kicks—each team gets five penalty kicks, and whoever has more at the end takes the game. The rain had let up by this point, but the 2+ hours of play had taken their toll on the players. But their determination seemed to be in equal measure, as they ended the 10-total penalty kicks still locked in a tie.  Next stop, “sudden death.” Each team kicks, and if one gets a goal and the other misses, it’s all over. Both teams go through player after player, making every goal in perfect synchronicity. Each player can only kick once, and they do. After 10 players from each team have taken their kicks, the Sounders and San Jose Quakes have each only missed one, two and a half hours after they took the field, at 9-9. The last players to attempt the kick are the goalies; who previously had been trading off guarding the net, now turn to face one another. The Sounders keeper, Stefan Cleveland, shot first. Unfortunately, unable to make the switch from saving to scoring, his kick was low and the San Jose goalkeeper Matt Bersano dived on the ball and made the save. Then they switched, Bersano squaring off against Cleveland. The crowd inhaled together. 

Bersano scored, ending the brutal shoot-out. Had Cleveland saved it, we would have continued penalty kicks, starting back at the top of the lineup. It was a disappointing end, though one could not have asked for a more exciting or intense game. Nevertheless, the crowd cheered for the Sounders’ tough battle, confident that all players had left everything they had on the pitch that night. 

Afterwards, we joined in on the post-game press conference. Sounders Coach Brian Schmetzer was proud of how well his team played throughout the match, despite the final score. Asked how he felt being back at Starfire, he instantly replied: “Loved it. Loved it. Ya know, when we scored the first goal you could just sense the crowd, there was a little bit of rain […] I loved it. I thought it was great.” Also, he was asked how many times he’d experienced a shootout that long in his career, to which he said:
“Never. Never.”

The Seawolves Make History at Starfire

Guest blogger Claire Schmitt details her experience attending a Seawolves Major League Rugby match. 

Sunday, May 8th, matchday. After a quick 25-minute drive south on I-5 from North Seattle and a whopping $6 for parking, we’re at the front gate of Starfire Sports in Tukwila. There’s a sense of familiarity and intimacy about the stadium. People of all ethnicities and ages walk around repping their Seawolves green and blue. It’s the epitome of a family-friendly spot; kids with soccer balls keep themselves entertained on the surrounding fields by taking shots into goals while the adults gather nearby to chat and grab refreshments before the match starts. It smells like well-manicured grass and summer days at the park. I’m in love already.

I leave my friends temporarily at the Chick’N Fix food truck, head past the concession stand and swag booth, get my bag checked, ticket scanned, hand stamped, and enter the stadium. The team is running warm-up drills on the pitch. As I stand at the perimeter field fence, the players are so close I could casually chat with them about what they ate for breakfast if I wanted to. Head Coach Allen Clarke walks up to some folks also standing near me and shakes their hands. I’ve never been to a major league sports event like this before—there’s almost no separation between the players and their fans. The whole atmosphere is refreshing. It feels personal, as if it’s the norm for the team to interact with the community at this level.

People keep steadily coming in and make their way to their seats. I head upstairs to grab myself a beer ($7 for stadium beer? I’ll take it!). When I get up there I see two women dressed head to toe in Seawolves gear. They look legit and one girl is eating a soft pretzel so I decide to approach. Their names are Mikaela Mattes and Kate Crabtree, it turns out they host the PNW Showdown Podcast. Mikaela and Kate cover a wide variety of Seattle sports but tell me rugby is special. 

“There’s a high level of respect in this game,” Kate says. “It’s relatively new in the U.S., but people here are really willing to explain all the rules of the game and what’s going on so it feels very welcoming and friendly,” she explains.

Mikaela chimes in,”Yeah, it’s like its own little pod here…” They exchange a look at each other as they realize the Seawolves pun she just unintendedly made. “Ooh, that’s a good one. We should use that,” Kate tells Mikaela and we all laugh. They tip me off about an exciting distinction for tonight’s game. Referee Kat Roche, the first female lead referee in MLR history, is back at Starfire. 

The match starts and my crew barely has enough time to get settled in our seats before the Seawolves make their first try (rugby’s version of a football touchdown or a soccer goal). The place goes wild. Green fireworks explode into the air. The Seawolves are leading the match within the first minute, not a bad way to start. 

The Dallas Jackals attempt to make it a real game when they score a try of their own at minute 8. For a split second you start to think, can we pull off this win? The Seawolves respond at minute 12, as if to answer my question directly, yes. #TogetherWeHunt. And together, they make it happen. They score another try and AJ Alatimu makes the conversion.

These guys are huge and when their bodies collide the sound it creates upon impact is loud enough to make every single person in the stands wince slightly. I’m half in horror at the fact none of them are wearing pads and half think it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. The Seawolves dominate the pitch (aka the field). It seems like every time they get possession of the ball they systematically manage to drive their way towards the try zone.

Minute 19:40 – Seawolves score a try and conversion. Fireworks go off. Fans erupt.
Minute 31:52 – Seawolves score a try. Fireworks go off. Fans erupt.
Minute 34:16 – Seawolves score a try and conversion. Fireworks go off. Fans erupt.

It’s the end of the first half and it isn’t looking good for the other team. Rucky the Seawolf, the team’s beloved Orca mascot, is making their way around waving and saying hello to all the families celebrating Mother’s Day. There’s a Mother and son duo sitting in front of me looking enthralled. I lean over and ask the kid where he got the Dippin’ Dots he’s eating. He’s missing a tooth when he turns around and smiles at me. He shyly tells me, “the concession stand at the entrance.” I ask him how old he is, “eleven.” It’s their first Seawolves game, the mom tells me. We politely chat about the beautiful weather and I let them get back to watching the game. 

A whistle blows and the second half begins, but it’s already clear this will be a blowout. The Seawolves are relentless and won’t let up. Around the 60-minute mark, the Seawolves have scored so much that Starfire has run out of fireworks for celebration. 

Jim Stewart Allen or “Broccoli Guy”, a local legend and 2nd-grade substitute teacher turned social media influencer, has been dancing all game at the try line. I can’t resist an opportunity to meet him in person and take a selfie. Jim says the Seawolves have been extending him the personal invite for their games but he started attending during the 2021 season. “Starfire is unique because you get to be so close to the players and the game. I find that Seawolves games create an environment for more fan engagement which is really fun to be around,” he says. And I feel it too. 

When the scoreboard hits 80 minutes, the Seawolves stadium erupts in one last outburst of cheers and “Sweet Caroline” starts playing, setting the celebratory mood as folks file down the aisles towards the pitch and exit. We start to gather our belongings, but something strange is happening. No one is really leaving. The Seawolves and Jackals players are gathering together, shaking hands, taking photos, and in some cases even hugging one another. Weren’t you guys just trying to tear each other’s faces off? 

Players from both teams are approaching the fence to greet the fans and thank them for coming out to the game. Even Referee Kat Roche comes over! I shake her hand, congratulate her on the game, give player JP Smith a high-five, and take a photo with Seawolf (and 2x Tam USA Rugby Olympian!) Martin Iosefo. It’s a celebration, but not just for the winners or even one team. It’s a celebration for the sport of rugby.

The final score turns out to be an MLR record-setting outcome of 74-7, the most points and tries ever scored by a single team and the largest margin of victory at 67 points. But all records aside, to me, the fan experience is about whether or not I see myself as being a part of the Seawolves community. After this amazing night, the answer is clear. So to you, dear reader, I share the secret of the Seawolves. You’ll thank me later.

 

Visit https://seawolves.rugby to learn more about the Seattle Seawolves and find tickets to upcoming matches. 

 

U.S. Open Cup at Starfire: Sounders vs. Earthquakes

The U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 returns to Starfire on May 11 with a repeat of the 2017 matchup between the Seattle Sounders and the San Jose Earthquakes. The Sounders are eager to add another win to their dominant 23-6-4 record for Open Cup play during the MLS era, including 3 tournament championships. And Starfire is just the place to do it, with 21 of their 23 Open Cup wins happening right here in Tukwila. 

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – the oldest continuous soccer competition in the United States and the third-longest domestic cup competition globally – is open to all United States Soccer Federation (USSF) affiliated teams. With its four Open Cup titles, Sounders FC is tied with the Chicago Fire FC for the most titles among MLS clubs. The tournament was suspended from 2020-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kickoff is set for 7pm on Wednesday, May 11 at Starfire Sports.

Game will be streamed on ESPN+.

 

Mother’s Day at Starfire! Seattle Seawolves vs. Dallas Jackals

Celebrate Mother’s Day with the Seattle Seawolves and watch them take on the Dallas Jackals! Exclusive women’s merchandise will be available, and an amazing giveaway for all moms attending.

Tickets start at just $31! Grab them here.

Kids ages 6-14 are invited to attend the Run with the Pack pre-game youth camp at 5pm, which includes:

    • (1) Standing room ticket for the game
    • Seawolves Rugby t-shirt
    • ‘Meet & Greet’
    • 10% off Seawolves merchandise
    • Autograph session to end the camp

Seattle Seawolves vs. San Diego Legion

Come cheer on our Seattle Seawolves as they take on the San Diego Legion on Saturday, April 16 at 3pm.

Tickets start at just $31! Grab them here.

You can also catch the game on Roots Sports Plus, and the Rugby Network.

Tacoma Defiance MLS NEXT Pro League at Starfire

Catch the inaugural season of MLS NEXT Pro, a new professional men’s soccer league, right here at Starfire and cheer on our local club — the Tacoma Defiance. There will be a total of 10 matches this season at Starfire Stadium, between March 27 and September 18.

All tickets are just $15 and are available online in advance or at the door. Ticket sales directly benefit the RAVE Foundation, the official charitable arm of Seattle Sounders FC.

The schedule is designed to work alongside each club’s respective MLS team. Here’s the lineup of who’s coming to Starfire:

    • March 27 @ 12:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. Real Monarchs
    • April 2 @ 7:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. North Texas SC
    • April 17 @ 3:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
    • May 1 @ 3:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. Houston Dynamo 2
    • May 15 @ 7:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. Real Monarchs
    • June 18 @ 7:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. Colorado Rapids 2
    • July 17 @ 7:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. Minnesota United FC 2
    • July 30 @ 7:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. St. Louis City 2
    • August 20 @ 7:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. Sporting KC II
    • September 18 @ 4:00 pm – Tacoma Defiance vs. Timbers 2