Bank on Ballard FC

New, lively, community-driven soccer team is coming to Ballard’s backyard

Isabella Tranello, Sports Editor

Ballard FC founders Sam Zisette, Chris Kaimmer, Lamar Neagle. (Courtesy of Ballard FC)

The sound of live music blasts loudly as fans of all ages excitedly walk through the metal gates of Interbay Stadium in Seattle. An atmosphere of comradery fills the air and mixes with the aromatic scent of fresh meals being prepared in a food truck and food tent. Adult patrons enjoy beers together in the beer garden and discuss the potential outcomes of the exhilarating game they are about to watch. 

The feeling surrounding the event is one of unity, community, and lively fun. 

This experience is exactly what the founders of the new semi-professional soccer team, Ballard FC, located in the neighborhood of Ballard in Seattle, want to offer their fans when they attend their home games. Ballard FC games will be all about having a good time and constructing a community of dedicated fans among Ballard residents and beyond. 

With their inaugural season starting on Saturday, May 21, the founders of Ballard FC, Sam Zisette, Chris Kaimmer and Lamar Neagle turned what was once just a dream into a very successful reality. A reality that has been so successful that it has already exceeded their expectations. 

“So, our home opener is already sold out, and honestly, when we were talking about Ballard FC, we never thought that would happen. We thought that if we could get 400 people just to go to the first game then maybe we could get half of them to come back. It is awesome that this many people want to come, but it is also really intimidating, because we are going to have 1200 people at the first game,” Zisette said.

The dream of creating Ballard FC was something Zisette had been thinking about for many years, but the culmination of the vision did not come to be until 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Ballard FC did not begin to take shape until 2020, the vital connections that would be needed to take the team off the ground began when Zisette met Neagle while they played professionally for the indoor soccer team the Tacoma Stars for the 2018-2019 season.

Before playing for the Tacoma, Neagle also played for the Seattle Sounders for a collective of eight years spread out between multiple different signings to the team. 

“We got to become friends and just really clicked with both soccer and our approach to business and life. So, I reached out to Lamar in 2020 when I was thinking a whole lot more about Ballard FC and asked him if he wanted to get involved because he was someone I trust, is smart and has a ton of experience in the world of soccer. He didn’t even have to think about it, he was immediately in,” Zisette said. 

Now that they had their second co-founder, the only thing left was to find the third and final member of their team, Kaimmer. Zisette and Neagle would not be introduced to Kaimmer until Feb. 2021, only about a year and two months ago. 

“Chris is from Ballard but we had never crossed paths before, even though we both went to Ballard High School. We were only introduced through a mutual connection,” Zisette said. “He has over a decade of experience in the intersection between soccer, social impact and the entrepreneurial world. Lamar and I bring a lot of soccer, business and community experience but haven’t really started a business before and Chris just had so many good ideas that we knew he was the right fit for our team.” 

Since Kaimmer joined the organization, the process of building the team was galvanized and their dream was beginning to look more like a reality. The upward success of Ballard FC has not stopped since then and the dream only seems to be getting bigger. 

Ballard FC plays their first game – which has already sold out – against Lane United FC on Saturday, May 21st at home. (Courtesy of Ballard FC)

Ahead of the team’s first season in the Northwest Division of the United Soccer League League Two, they have held three open tryout sessions that began on Saturday, March 5, and concluded on Sunday, March, 6. As of Saturday, April 9, Head Coach Jason Farrell has created a team of 21 players from a variety of different colleges and backgrounds. 

“I’ll try to sit in on meetings and pick his brain to see where his head is at but at the end of the day, it’s his team. However, I do believe there is a process of accessing not only a player’s physical ability and tactical traits but also their character and mentality.” Zisette said. 

Five of these 21 players include current and former Seattle Pacific University men’s soccer players. The current SPU players who have joined Ballard FC’s inaugural season roster are sophomore defenders Joey Van Horn and Evan Aune. 

The three other Falcons set to join the team just played in their final season with SPU in the 2021-2022 fall season where the team took home the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship. Among these former Falcon athletes are forward Alex Mejia, goalkeeper Lars Helleren, and defender Nik Reierson, who was the first SPU player to be announced to the official roster on Tuesday, Feb. 22. 

So, if you want to support a team made up of talented and determined local soccer players from not only SPU but many other colleges like Western Washington University and create a long-lasting and energetic community of fans in Ballard, go catch a Ballard FC game at Interbay Stadium and be a part of history. 

Ballard FC is here and it is here to stay. 

“At the end of the day, what matters to us is that we leave a positive community impact and that we provide something that inspires kids, excites the community and brings people together. There is no metric to measure that or a spreadsheet that you can look at to gauge how important you are to the community, it is more of a feeling. In this industry, we have seen a lot of teams come and go, but we want to build something that we can continue to improve upon and will be here in five, ten, or 20 years.” Zisette said.