I never thought I would interview someone like Dawn Trudeau, or have so much fun chatting about basketball. Growing up I was much happier at the ballet barre than on the PE field. The only sports facts I knew were fed to me by my football-loving mom. And the closest I’d ever come to a professional sporting event was a minor league baseball game where my companions spent more time playing “flip-cup” (a test in beer-drinking prowess) than actually watching the game.
So when my friends invited me to go see the Seattle Storm, I was lukewarm at best. But I packed up my scraps of basketball knowledge (the ball goes through the hoop, right?), a book to pass the time if I got bored, and headed down to Key Arena.
Three minutes into the game I was at the edge of my seat and screaming myself hoarse. It wasn’t just the game and the players, which were thrilling to watch. It was the whole experience. It was infectious, an immediate sense of belonging.
I never would have had this experience if wasn’t for Dawn and three other women, who stepped up to keep the Storm in Seattle.
In 2008 the Seattle Sonics and Storm were about to be shipped across the country. The state legislature voted down funding for a new arena, and the team saw greater support in Oklahoma.
For Dawn, the prospect of losing one of the WNBA’s top teams, which provides strong role models for Seattle girls, was unacceptable. Though she’d never played basketball herself, Dawn was a Storm season ticket-holder since day one, and she was not alone. Dawn joined forces with three other season ticket-holders: Ginny Gilder, Lisa Brummel and Anne Levinson. The group formed Force 10 Hoops and made a offer to buy the Storm.
It was not an easy process. The Sonic and Storm’s chairperson was not initially willing to sell. Things went back and forth, and until the end the group was unsure if the deal would happen. So when the chairperson agreed to an exclusive option for the Storm for Force 10 Hoops, it was a shock. Dawn recalls:
“It felt unreal. We thought, ‘Wow, what did we just do? Did that really happen?’”
On January 8, 2008 the option was announced with a deadline of the end of February to work out all the details and obtain approval by the WNBA. On March 1, 2008 the transaction was completed, but the real impact of their actions was yet to be realized.
It was the end of the first game after Force 10 Hoops assumed ownership. The Storm players gathered on the court, as was tradition, to touch hands. And this time they pulled Dawn and the rest of the ownership group along with them.
Normally this would have been a quiet moment. The stands would be emptying out, the frenzy of the game dying down. But when Dawn looked up, all the seats were still full, and as she stood there surrounded by her team and colleagues, the entire arena erupted in a standing ovation. Dawn remembers:
“It was completely unexpected. There was such love and absolute happiness coming from the stands – directed at us…Every time we have a game, so many people thank us. It feels like a family with the fans, a community.”
The Storm’s impact extends beyond the arena as well. Recognized as the 2009 Business of the Year by the King County Municipal League, the Storm highlights women of inspiration in the Seattle area, and the ownership group has formed the Storm Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes girls’ health and fitness.
Force 10 Hoops. Photo by Ingrid Pape-Sheldon
As the chair of the Storm Foundation, Dawn draws upon her experience with SVP. “So much of what I learned at SVP informs that work,” says Dawn – from developing programs to defining outcomes. But most importantly, both SVP and the Storm “are about building community,” explains Dawn.
If you haven’t felt the power of the Storm community, check out a game. If this ex-tutu toting sports novice had a fantastic time, you will too.
Watch the Full Story on Video
Learn more about this story in the Storm’s 10th anniversary History Documentary (scroll down to part six).