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A meeting with ‘Mr. Puma’
Perhaps “Mr. Puma” is an apt description for Robin Waite.
The owner of the county’s first fully professional soccer franchise, the Kitsap Pumas, Waite’s life is all soccer, all the time.
Since inking a partnership last fall with the Bremerton School District (BSD) that will allow the club to play its home games at Bremerton Memorial Stadium beginning May 15, Waite, a Tracyton resident, has built his franchise from the ground up.
What began as a two-man enterprise with longtime friend Ben Pecora, who is the club’s executive director, is now a full-on soccer operation. Waite assembled a front-office staff, hired a coach, signed players and established local and global sponsorships, among others.
Now, with the May 2 inaugural season-opener just two weeks away, the real-estate-agent-turned-soccer-club-owner chats work, play, soccer and more with the CK Reporter.
Q: How would you spend your time if you weren’t the owner of the Kitsap Pumas?
A: I would probably be doing more real estate because that’s what I did before the Pumas.
Q: How did your previous business endeavors bring you into the world of soccer?
A: It was sort of a roundabout way ... Years ago, I read a book called, “How I turned $1,000 into a million dollars in my spare time.” I read the book and figured out how to make that actually happen. The whole concept behind the book was that you buy rundown buildings, fix them up and turn them around and sell them for a profit. But you don’t sell them, you trade them and you keep on trading up. Since I was in the real estate business, I had the opportunity to do this by virtue of doing what were called back then, “tax-free exchanges.”
Q: How did your background in real estate help you select a stadium location?
A: Anything to do with real estate is always due diligence; you look, and you look and you look. You look at zoning maps, you look at sizes of property. For our stadium, the footprint needed to be about 3.5 acres for the size I wanted.
Q: Who would play your role if a movie was made about your life?
A: Richard Burton because of the accent.
Q: What’s playing on your iPod right now?
Q: If you could invite three people to dinner, who would they be and why?
A: Abraham Lincoln, Genghis Khan and James Kirk. It would be a good cross mix, it would be an interesting conversation ... the prime directive would have to take hold.
Q: Who are your heroes and why?
A: Winston Churchill would be one. He was somebody who got knocked down, beat up, dragged out and still made it back and was probably the preeminent spokesman for the English people and the western world during World War II. His speeches were absolutely phenomenal. I would say the same thing about Abraham Lincoln; you read his speeches and they are just incredible.
Q: Words to live by?
A: When all else fails, punt. The other one, of course, would be location, location, location.
Q: How do you see Sounders FC impacting the Pumas, if at all?
A: It’s going to impact us positively. It has made soccer on the forefront of everything that’s going on around Puget Sound at the moment. It’s the old adage, ‘A raising tide lifts all boats.’ So we’re the beneficiary of that. Later on this year we’re going to have an opportunity to scrimmage them, so it will be good for us from that standpoint. At some future point, I would like to have us be in a position where we could ultimately challenge them. But that’s a little way off, we don’t have the deep pockets they do.
Q: Why come to a Kitsap Pumas game?
A: Because you’ll see very good soccer, you’ll see players who are a quarter-of-an-inch or maybe half-an-inch below the level of the MLS (Major League Soccer) teams.
Q: How has the state of the economy influenced your decisions in building the franchise?
A: The challenges are that it’s more difficult to get sponsorship money out of people. But, the plus to that is we’re providing a very, very inexpensive entertainment. It costs you more to take a ferry over to Seattle if you’re driving your car than it does to go to one of our games.
Q: Do you anticipate additional challenges?
A: The only thing that would be a problem is if we don’t draw (fans) as well as I think we will. That would make it more difficult for us.
Q: What do you like most about Kitsap County?
A: It’s very unpretentious. You know everybody over here. The water is phenomenal. You’re so close to the water all over the place, I just love that aspect of it.
Q: What do you most like about soccer?
A: The best part about the sport is it requires individual thought. There’s no coaching manipulation; once the game starts, it’s up to the players. It becomes an intellectual challenge and you have to adjust on the fly.
Alcohol won’t be served at home games at Memorial Stadium because the Bremerton School District (BSD) doesn’t allow alcoholic beverages on school grounds, where the stadium is located ... Executive director Ben Pecora said the franchise is “building a network of stops across the Peninsula” where people can gather for food and beverages before homes games ... The club is working to distribute Pumas apparel — scarfs, jerseys, hats and more — to local businesses, which will sell the merchandise to the general public ... Waite said the Pumas are planning to scrimmage Sounders FC in late May and early June, although exact dates have yet to be determined ... The club is looking for a statistician as well as a public-address announcer for home games and interested parties are encouraged to contact Pecora at (360) 377-6008 ... The first preseason match is at 7 p.m. tomorrow at North Kitsap High School where the Pumas will face the Tacoma Stars professional indoor soccer team.