The United Soccer League is also planning to bring a women’s soccer team to Spokane
When the dignitaries spoke about women’s football in Spokane on Wednesday afternoon, it was already in front of them.
The occasion was the announcement that the United Soccer League wants to set up a professional women’s team on the site of a new stadium in the city center by 2023.
As the speakers spent their day in the blazing sun, Payton Stiles stood in the shadow of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and cherished the moment.
“I think this gives little girls like me something to look forward to, but also something to work toward,” said Stiles, who is at Mt. Spokane High School and now plays for Gonzaga.
“If there had been something like this when I was a kid that I could see these players in the light, it would have been great,” said Stiles.
Now it has a chance to surprise thousands of young girls growing up with the game.
“And it will encourage people to pay more attention to women’s sports,” said Stiles.
That was the biggest takeaway from Wednesday’s announcement: The new stadium will not only host high school football or just men’s football.
The USL has already committed to bringing a League One men’s franchise to Spokane. Now it is hoping to expand this appeal with a League W team.
“We are incredibly excited to be able to offer our community new opportunities to get involved in women’s sports,” said Cindy Wendle, president of USL, to Spokane.
“Improving gender equality and opportunities for women not just in competition but in all areas of sports management is of paramount importance, and I am honored to be part of the team that brings this amazing project to life,” said Wendle.
Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward walked from there and had visions of “high school girls taking the field in a brand new downtown stadium.”
“They will see that if they have a dream and work hard enough they can continue their careers in the light of the national stages,” said Woodward.
A few moments later, Woodward and Wendle posed for the cameras wearing a huge purple scarf.
âFor the W,â it said. That stands for women, but this time also for winning.
Up until four months ago, Spokane Public Schools had allocated US $ 31 million for a new 5,000-seat stadium at its current location in Albi in northwest Spokane.
But in early March, a coalition led by the Downtown Spokane Partnership, along with a professional soccer team, proposed the idea of ââa centralized alternative.
Two months later, after several public forums and much controversy, the district board approved the downtown stadium, which will be located east of the arena.
Mark Richard, President and CEO of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, also appreciated the moment.
“The stadium will offer our students a whole range of opportunities,” said Richard, who has two football-playing daughters.
“This is a really great illustration of what we were trying to get across,” said Richard.
More work is ahead. The USL has yet to find an ownership group for both teams, though Wendle said the league would take financial responsibility if no one steps forward.
It’s also unclear whether the stadium will be ready in the fall of 2022, when high school soccer teams will compete on the new turf.
Greg Forsyth, head of the school district‘s capital projects, said Wednesday that the stadium is unlikely to be completed until spring 2023.
Then the USL teams are expected to start the competition.
“Today’s announcement is another big step for the future of football in Spokane,” said Justin Papadakis, COO and Chief Real Estate Officer of the USL.
“In addition to the great work that has been done to bring both the men’s and women’s teams together, we couldn’t be more excited to see the progress of the downtown stadium project,” said Papadakis.
“Football is at its core about community and we have no doubt that this project will serve as a community meeting place and a great source of pride for all Spokans,” said Papadakis.
Stiles said she can’t wait.
“I think there is a big Spokane football community but it’s been neglected and bigger than people think,” she said.
“People think Spokane is a basketball town with a GU and a hoop festival,” said Stiles. “But if you give us the chance to do something like this in football, I think you’ll get the same excitement.”