Dear Friends of the FlameThrowers and the Bay Area Disc Community,
As some of you will know by now, the FlameThrowers will not be playing in the AUDL in 2019. We are sad to have made the decision, but we just did not see a way forward to create a sustainable business in this market.
When we contacted Josh Moore over 6 years ago and began our journey with the FlameThrowers, we had a vision of professional ultimate taking its place alongside the great spectator sports. While we always knew there would be challenges along the way, the FlameThrowers ownership group believes that those challenges warrant a pause.
We are incredibly proud to have represented San Francisco ultimate and the Bay Area in the AUDL and to the world at large. We are delighted to have been at the forefront of providing women opportunities to play on the same field as men. We are thrilled to have won the 2017 AUDL Championship and seen our players featured on ESPN’s Top 10 as well as receive numerous AUDL accolades. And we consider ourselves fortunate to have given those amazing players an opportunity to showcase the joy of the sport.
For those that think about Ultimate as a spectator sport, here are some of the key things we’ve learned on this journey. First, Ultimate is incredibly spectator/fan-friendly and we continue to believe people will watch it. Second, the Ultimate community by itself is not large enough (even in the Bay Area!) to provide the fan base necessary to support a team financially, but broader awareness of the sport still lags far behind, as seen in the difficulty in landing a significant sponsorship after several years. Finally, operational excellence takes time to build and requires great relationships with service providers and partners; we thank them from the bottom of our hearts for all they did over the years.
Our hopes for the future include continued involvement in spectator/fan-focused ultimate, particularly in a more gender-equitable format. We have advocated for more local flexibility in game formats and believe that experimentation at this stage of spectator Ultimate’s development is critical. And we have long hoped for coordination between the AUDL and the USAU to ensure player safety and reasonable workloads over the season.
We wish all those competing, producing, and otherwise involved in the AUDL all the best in 2019 and beyond. And we again thank all the players, partners, youth groups, Laney College, Bay Area Disc Association and countless others for supporting us along the way and helping make the FlameThrowers a reality.