2018-05-16 / Sports

THE PRESSBOX

Women’s pro sports taking over Flint
BRANDON POPE

In the Genesee-Lapeer County area, we’ve seen our fair share of professional and semi-pro teams come and go. For those Lapeer County residents, I’m sure you recall the short-lived minor-league hockey team the Lapeer Loggers, or even the semi-pro football squad the Lapeer County Lions.

In Genesee County, it’s been a similar thing, just many more teams have come and gone in football, hockey, basketball, soccer, and if you go back to the 1950s, even baseball. But this summer, it seems that a new trend is hitting Flint – women’s professional sports.

As some of you may have noticed when certain Lapeer sports teams hit the road to take on teams in Flint, historic Atwood Stadium has undergone a major renovation. Kettering University purchased the facility, and not only saved it from being abandoned, but refurbished it into a quality facility for high school sports and many events alike.

That drew the attention of the United Women’s Soccer professional league, and beginning this summer, Genesee F.C. will call Atwood home. It is likely to be the biggest stadium in the league as most teams play in 1-2,000 seat facilities, whereas Atwood seats 11,000. Their home opener will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 18.

As if that news wasn’t big enough, the Flint Monarchs, who’ve been playing on the women’s professional circuit for several years now, announced that they will be moving their home games from Mott Community College’s Ballenger Fieldhouse to the Dort Federal Event Center, joining the Ontario Hockey League’s Flint Firebirds as the arena’s tenants.

It would be one thing to play at a high school, as most minor-league teams do, but for these two franchises to play at the area’s biggest arena and area’s biggest stadium is a big deal. It easily increases their visibility and gives them instant off-the-field credibility within their respective leagues.

Not only is it big for the teams, but it’s big for the area. Dort Federal hasn’t had professional basketball of any kind since the Continental Basketball Association’s Flint Fuze in 2001, a franchise that lasted just one season before it moved to Birch Run to become the Great Lakes Storm. The Monarchs also have Goodrich grad Taylor Gleason on the roster.

As for Atwood, this is a huge deal. A once dilapidated facility is now in tip-top shape and has never hosted pro sports other than minor-league football. It brings visibility to the facilities and the area, which often has a negative perception.

Obviously, we’ve seen teams like this come and go before, but I’ve seen the internal organizations within the teams that fell apart and eventually folded. They weren’t run the way these teams are and didn’t possess the solid and dedicated ownership of these teams.

It’s also a good thing for us here at View Newspapers. The summer can often be a slow period for us without high school sports, so it has the ability to give us some interesting content to fill our papers with during the summer months.

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