Seattle Seahawks booster clubs create a tremendous fan experience for Seahawks fans that do not live near Seattle.
The Seattle Seahawks are known for celebrating their fans. The number 12 was retired in 1984 so fans would forever be part of the history of the team. As not all Seahawks fans live in the Emerald City, the Sea Hawkers booster clubs are an integral part of making sure displaced fans feel connected.
I was first introduced to the Midwest Sea Hawkers Booster Club last season in Kansas City. They had a large tailgate party that hosted over 200 Seahawks fans. After talking with a few members at that event, I knew this was more than just an organized group of fans.
The Seattle Seahawks formed the Sea Hawkers Booster Club shortly after the team’s inception in 1976. They based the club on a similar one that the then Baltimore Colts had. It was originally a way to bring fans together with the team, but has transformed into something bigger.
L to R: MWSH president Lucy Polovitch, Dayna O’Gorman, Peter Flores at Ambush at the Arch 14, St Louis Mo Photo credit: Paul O’Gorman
As expected, fan bases grow when a team has the success that the Seahawks have had over the last few years. However what many don’t know is Seattle has had a large displaced fan group for years. Having many huge multinational companies and a number of military bases, the Seattle area has a lot of people come through but who eventually move on. That spreads the fan base all around the world.
There are a lot of Sea Hawkers chapters in the immediate Seattle area but the number of outlying chapters is growing at an unprecedented rate. There are now 25 chapters in the US outside of Seattle, and 5 international Seahawks booster clubs, with 3 more chapters pending approval.
Lucy Polovitch, president of the Midwest Sea Hawkers Booster Club said the clubs true purpose for displaced fans is to bring people together. “Since we are an out of state booster club I think (the club) brings everyone together via our Facebook page and at our annual events, to have the interaction with fellow fans. It’s especially important for us that do not live in WA or the Seattle area, we enjoy the camaraderie of other who share our passion for Seattle football.”
For the international groups, this becomes even more important. Ian Smith, president of the UK chapter believes for him its even more about helping the team develop a strong presence in Europe. “The primary purpose of my Chapter is to spread the 12th man brand amongst the faithful here in the UK, and indoctrinate them in the way of the 12. Historically this has meant recruiting all around the UK and Europe.”
Ambush at the Arch #14, St Louis Mo Sept 13, 2015 Photo credit: Dayna O’Gorman
As these groups are backed by the team themselves, members get special privileges that non-members don’t. Discounts at team stores, signed memorabilia to be raffled off at events, banquets, special events on draft day, field passes for games in Seattle, and opportunities for meet and greets with players and coaches.
Each chapter has a special event they hold each year. For the Midwest Sea Hawkers, it’s the annual “Ambush at the Arch” held during Seattle’s game in St Louis every season. This last weekend was the 14th annual Ambush, which hosted over 250 fans from all around the country.
Of course the Arizona chapter had a big part to play last year due to the Super Bowl being in Phoenix. Chapter president Kenny Bishop said the club had over 3000 fans at their Seahawks event during the Super Bowl, the biggest outside of Seattle.
For the UK chapter, the Wembley games provide the perfect backdrop to host fans. Their chapter meets weekly during the regular season, but when the NFL comes to London, they host chapter breakfasts and after game meals around Trafalgar Square.
12th Man Flag photo credit Dayna O’Gorman
However its not all about tailgates and parties. The Sea Hawkers Booster clubs are also very active in helping the different charities supported by the team. Bishop said they focus on charity events on game day, hosting drives for Toys for Tots and various food banks around the area.
When I was talking to the various chapter presidents, one theme ran throughout all conversations. Friendship. “I’ve seen so many great people come together for the love of our team,” said Polovitch, “and leave with lasting friends with one common ground.”
Smith says its camaraderie that is his favorite aspect of the group. “Thick and thin we’ve been through it.”
I talk a lot about being a displaced fan. When we left Seattle for Kansas City, I really thought I’d never be able to cheer for my team publicly again unless I bought a plane ticket back to Seattle. The Sea Hawkers clubs not only help the communities they serve, but really are a safe haven for those fans who live outside of Washington. They bring 12s together in enemy territory, and never let the team forget ‘whose got their back’.
You can find out more information on the Sea Hawkers Booster Club and chapter information at their website seahawkers.org.
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