The city of Seattle loosened land-use restrictions this week to allow the Seattle Storm to build a practice facility in the Interbay neighborhood, stressing equity for women’s sports.
Mayor Jenny Durkan signed legislation on Tuesday that allows indoor recreation facilities to be as large as 50,000 square feet, replacing a previous restriction that capped such structures at 10,000 square feet.
The decision, which was also unanimously approved by the City Council, will allow Seattle’s WNBA team to have its own place to practice.
“The leading women’s athletic team in the country doesn’t have its own practice facility. Seattle, we’re better than that,” Durkan said during a news conference held at the Storm’s office building across from the future practice site on West Bertona Street.
“The Seattle Storm are our hometown heroes. They gave our city so much hope through COVID,” Durkan said of the four-time national champions. “I think watching those women grapple with life in the bubble, as well as what was happening in the streets and having the courage to lead on the court and off the court, and to come back with the fourth trophy was truly remarkable.”
Durkan and Councilmember Dan Strauss, who chairs the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee and co-sponsored the legislation, noted similar past efforts by the city to support male professional sports teams.
“We not only want to support our most winningest team, we know that we need to support our women’s sports here in the city,” Strauss said. “As the mayor just mentioned, we’ve moved heaven and earth to support our male teams here in the city, and I am just honored to be able to do the same for our women’s team as well.”
Storm co-owners Ginny Gilder and Lisa Brummel said that the facility, though privately funded and designed for the team, will have a positive impact on the surrounding community. Gilder said it is too early to provide a timeline for construction.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled that the city has stepped forward and extended that tradition of support to its sole professional women’s sports franchise,” Gilder said. “While the Emerald City has been our home for 21 years — and we hope that will never change — the WNBA has changed and grown over that period, to the point that a practice facility is no longer a nice-to-have but a got-to-have.”
With the new facility, players who currently practice in a college gymnasium with limited hours will have more access to training and the public will have the ability to view practices.
“It is so exciting to imagine what can happen when you have a dedicated facility for world class athletes, soon to be Hall-of-Famers, and you let them have it where they can practice from morning to night,” Brummel said. “They can talk about how they want to bring others along with them. They can further their image as a role model, and they can contribute — continue to contribute — to our community.”