Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel with your local soccer club on their team bus? For Bellingham United fans, that unique experience is now available.
The Bellingham United’s indoor soccer team recently started the “Boogie Bus” program, where for $25, including the cost of the ticket, fans can join players round-trip for away games.
As a sports reporter for The Front, I was given the fantastic opportunity to ride for free.
According to the team’s dedicated bus driver Bobby Rus, the name is self-explanatory.
“When we’re coming back from the game, we let fans control the radio,” Rus said. “It becomes a party bus.”
I was able to experience the second-ever Boogie Bus event, which centered around a tightly contested away loss against the No. 2 seed Oly Town ending in a 5-2 scoreline, on Feb. 11.
In 2019, the Bellingham City Council voted to sell the Sportsplex to the nonprofit organization Whatcom Sports and Recreation, which currently hosts local semi-pro, academy and university teams along with figure skating competitions.
Whatcom Sports and Recreation Executive Director Marc Ronney said the loss was frustrating to witness as a fan of the team.
“Tough day for the boys,” Ronney said.
The true draw of the experience is an opportunity to travel with a unique squad of players who make up the semi-pro indoor soccer team.
The talented squad consists of university students, teachers, construction workers, finance managers, a professional artist and more.
Rus confirmed that the team’s long-away trips never have a dull moment, with the ride back being particularly enjoyable.
During the ride on Feb. 11, players talked about their favorite sports movies, told stories, cracked jokes and discussed who’s to blame for the loss.
Player and coach of United, Rich Henderson, has been with the team since 2015. He was pleased with the attendance of the initial Boogie Bus experience.
“The first week of the Bellingham F.C., Boogie Bus had 15 to 20 fans,” Henderson said.
“A mix of kids, older folks and players’ friends.”
The intense nature of indoor soccer, a 5-on-5 game, often pulls in fans of other sports like hockey and basketball.
“After they see a game, they’re hooked,” Henderson said. “It’s high scoring; [there’s] lots of action.”
Through only 11 games this season, Bellingham United has scored 94 goals. This is due in part to the unique rules of indoor soccer, with four 15-minute quarters of non-stop action.
Team captain Dylan Langei, who has been with United since 2018, stated his unique squad is made of athletes from various occupations.
“We don’t make money doing this,” Langei said.
Langei stated that Bellingham United has allowed him to make surprising friends, including people from various occupations and age ranges.
“I’m 30 years old, but I’m forming friendships with guys who are 22 and 23,” he said. “Our paths wouldn’t have crossed if it wasn’t for Bellingham United.”
United’s Boogie Bus program gave me a glimpse into the team's dynamic, as I heard a home loan branch officer jokingly accuse an AP physics/robotics teacher of allowing too many goals.
United veteran defender since 2016, Ivan Colin, is a professional artist whose work you’ve likely seen around Bellingham.
“If you go to Cheba Hut [in Bellingham], it’s the giant mural there,” Colin said.
According to Colin, being a member of Bellingham United takes immense dedication. During the round trip to Olympia, I joined the team departing at 1:30 p.m. and returned around midnight.
“The guys who want to play are here, they’ll make the sacrifice,” he said. “More than half their day is usually spent traveling or playing.”
The United’s opening playoff matchup is now set. Due to Bellingham United’s Feb.18 home win of 9-1 over the Portland Blacktails, they’ve secured the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
Henderson stated that Bellingham United’s biggest rival is the Tacoma Stars, the league’s current No.1 seed and only team without a loss this season.
“It’s been us and them in every final since 2014,” Henderson said. “We’ll match up with them in the semifinal.”
The playoff semifinal begins March 4. Bellingham United F.C. will travel to Tacoma in hopes of avenging their 2022 5-8 league championship loss to the Stars.
It will be Bellingham United’s next away game and potentially the last chance for fans to experience the Boogie Bus this season.
Sign ups for the Boogie Bus are available on the team’s Facebook page prior to the game, or you can email SoccerDirector@BellinghamSportsplex.com for more information.
Theron Danielson (he/him) is a sports and recreation reporter for The Front this quarter. He is in his third year, majoring in journalism with a minor in film. His writing interests include sports, radio and student-led events. He enjoys musical theater, watching anime and yelling at the TV while watching sports.
You can reach him at email@example.com or on Instagram @therondanielson