Pro Ultimate Frisbee Storms the District

DC has two professional ultimate teams and it’s all about the fans.

Gabe Webster of the DC Current dives to block a Philadelphia pass. Photo: Ultiphotos 

The District has two professional ultimate Frisbee teams, and going to watch is fun, family-friendly, and affordable. The DC Breeze and DC Current play their home games on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons at Gallaudet University and Catholic University football stadiums respectively, each competing in a national league that features opponents from along the East Coast and beyond.

While over five million people play ultimate in the US each year, the sport, which was founded in the 60s, is still somewhat of a niche undertaking. But ultimate’s best players are for real, and so is the sport’s following. Players train year-round in the weight room and on the track, and come game time they sprint, leap, and dive to make plays all over the field. Long throws display sheer power, and short ones leave you admiring the technical skill, buzzer-beater plays, and lots of strategy. Hundreds of fans (and interested neighbors!) show up to watch the Breeze and the Current play each week. It’s not uncommon for game highlights to end up on SportsCenter.

The Breeze is part of the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), which has 28 teams and a franchise structure similar to Major League Baseball. The Current is part of Major League Ultimate (MLU), an eight-team national league with centralized, Major League Soccer-style management. The Breeze plays in the AUDL East along with teams from Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. The Current’s division has Philly, New York, and Toronto. With a number of USA national team members, the Breeze is expected to contend for a league championship. The Current won the MLU championship in 2014.

Each team’s season kicked off in mid-April. The Breeze plays five home games in May and June, and the Current has two remaining games, one in May and one in June. There’s also the chance both teams could host home playoff games later in the summer.

Games Aren’t Just Games

Beyond the game play, crowds of around 500 are certainly different from the tens of thousands that attend Nationals and Caps games. But aside from the perk of there not being owners who press taxpayers for new stadiums, ultimate’s scale means a more charming, casual environment reminiscent of a high school football game.

The Breeze has a partnership with Atlas Brew Works, and the Current serves DC Brau. You can get a burger or a few slices of pizza for $5 at both games. There are live bands, games for both kids and adults (think cornhole, but there are also plenty of discs flying around), and halftime shows and giveaways. After Breeze games you can get discounted food and drinks at the Big Board on H Street, and the same goes for Brookland Pint for Current games. “Our goal is to get non-ultimate fans out to just one game,” says Matt Dewhurst, the general manager of the Current. “Once we get them in, we know they’re going to love our sport, our team, and our game atmosphere.”

Tickets to Breeze games are $10 advanceand $12.50 at the gate for adults; all kids 12 and under get in free. Current tickets are $15 each, or $12 each for groups of four or more. Students are $10 and kids are $5 (under four years old, free).

You (and Your Kids) Can Play Too!

A big reason a spectator-focused version of ultimate is viable is that the game is growing at all levels. According to Julie Serfass, the president of the Washington Area Frisbee Club, about 3,200 people play in DC-area leagues each year. There are leagues for everyone, from total beginner to advanced, youth to 40+. Still others play regularly in non-league pickup games. “There is a huge awareness shift even since late 2013 when I became an owner,” says Don Grage, the owner of the Breeze. “At the time it was ‘Isn’t that where you try to throw it in a basket?’ Now it’s far more often, ‘Wow, that’s great! My son/neighbor/neighbor’s daughter/nephew/niece/friend plays. It’s a great sport!’”

Both the Breeze and the Current are dedicated to helping the area youth scene develop. Players help run learn-to-play clinics before games and at local schools, and many coach area middle school, high school, and college teams.

Catch Both Teams Through Summer

As of press time the Current was 0-2, with narrow losses to Boston and Philadelphia. The Breeze won its first game against Ottawa handily, and played big matches with Toronto, a league powerhouse, during the last two weeks of April. Each Breeze home game will be streamed on its website (www.the-dcbreeze.com), the exception being the June 11 game against New York, which ESPN3 will stream as AUDL’s game of the week. You can learn more about the team by emailing info@the-dcbreeze.com.

All of the Current’s games are streamed online at www.mlultimate.com/mlulive. You can get more info on the team at www.washingtondc.current.mlultimate.com or by emailing matt.dewhurst@thedccurrent.com.

For more information on how to get involved with DC’s greater ultimate community check out www.wafc.org.

Tom Doi of the DC Breeze launches the disc to a teammate. Photo: Fred Wolf
The crowd at a DC Breeze game. Photo: Fred Wolf