It has been said that Austin is the biggest city in the United States without a professional sports team, but that’s not entirely true. And even if it were, that saying will officially die on April 2 when The Austin Sol, a professional men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, makes their debut against the Dallas Roughnecks, the other expansion team in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL).
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If this isn’t a sport you’re familiar with, you are not alone. Ultimate Frisbee on the pro level is still relatively new, but it is rising in popularity. The league started in 2012, but “ultimate,” as many players call it, got its start in 1968 at a high school in Maplewood, New Jersey. Today, Ultimate Frisbee is actually becoming a viable business.
Sol owner Patrick Christmas, who organizes many of the ultimate leagues around Austin, purchased the territory rights to an Austin franchise. He came to the sport from the University of Texas, and went on to win a national “ultimate” championship with his club, Tejas. Then he announced that fellow teammate Michael Natenberg — nicknamed “Tank” — was joining him as head coach, and suddenly the Austin ultimate team was a force to be reckoned with in the league.
For Austin ultimate players, their fellow Sol members are familiar faces. Much of the team comes from the leagues that Christmas runs, or they play on the elite Austin club team DoubleWide. All have experience playing for their college teams as well. “Everyone knows each other,” Christmas says.
Additionally, the team put on a tryout that was attended by over 70 Sol hopefuls, some of whom traveled as far as Mexico for the chance to make the team (spoiler alert: he made it). Christmas describes the team as young, and fast, tall (most Sol players are between 6’2-6’5) and filled with talent. In fact, Sol member Jeff Loskorn plays for the United States Men’s Ultimate team.
While the Sol are a professional team, this isn’t a career move for players. At least, not yet anyway. Most Sol players receive a salary of $25 per game, and there are very few players in the AUDL who earn more than triple digits, although some of the stars of the AUDL like Beau Kittredge make over $10,000. Christmas says as fan support increases, and he’s able to work with a bigger budget. And they’re doing a lot to ensure the fan base continues to expand, undertaking grassroots marketing efforts by putting on youth clinics and promoting the team heavily within the Austin ultimate community.
While a professional ultimate team is new to Austin, and therefore untested, it has worked really well in other places. Teams in Wisconsin, Toronto, and Atlanta regularly average over 1,000 fans per game. Christmas hopes the Sol can learn from the success of another one of Austin’s professional, non-football teams, The Texas Rollergirls, one of the dominant forces in all-female roller derby.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch a Sol game in 2016. If you don’t want to travel to Dallas for the inaugural game, the home opener is on April 9th at 6:30 pm against the Dallas Roughnecks at House Park and the team will alternate between House Park, Vandergrift Park, and Westwood for their seven home weekends. Sol’s season runs through July 9th. Better yet: Thanks to the AUDL’s partnership with ESPN3, you might even be able to watch some of the away games from your couch.
Still not sure about professional ultimate Frisbee? Check out some of the AUDL’s 2015 highlights below.
For more information on the Sol’s players, and full schedule, check on the team’s website.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from an original version due to inaccuracies.