Colorado’s first professional ultimate disc team has a chance to win a championship in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) — in just its first season.
The Colorado Summit put together their first roster this summer with the hopes of bringing professional ultimate to the Colorado Rockies.
Sal Pace is one of the owners. Now in his 40s, Pace has played ultimate recreationally since high school.
“As far as athleticism and as a sport, it's incredibly fun to watch. The disc just floats so beautifully and you can make it curve in any direction,” he said.
Pace is a former state lawmaker and Democratic House Minority Leader, former Pueblo county commissioner and one time congressional candidate. Now, as he watches friends and former colleagues gear up for the midterm election season, he’s wrapping up his first season in professional sports. And that’s a big change.
“Why did I decide to buy a professional frisbee franchise?” Pace acknowledged, “A lot of it had to do with COVID and just like everyone else's existential realization of what's important or this existential question of what is most important in someone's life.
“And I realized there's probably nothing I enjoy more, no activity in my life that has brought me more joy and happiness than ultimate.”
Even though most people still casually call this sport ultimate frisbee, it’s technically ultimate or ultimate disc because the term frisbee is trademarked.
Pace says just getting the Colorado Summit off the ground was a victory. But the team has gone well beyond that. They lost only one game in the regular season (11-1), took home the Western Division title and are in the quarterfinals of the playoffs — just one win away from the AUDL’s Championship Weekend in Madison, WI.
“I think it’s a great representation of how great our coaches are and how much work our team has put in, in order to compete at this level,” said Josh Morris, who made the team with his identical twin brother Jon, and has enjoyed visiting different cities in the AUDL.
“Especially as our inaugural season.”
The sport is a bit like soccer, non-stop, fast-paced play until someone scores. And while it’s not mainstream, it has an avid following. Colorado had the best fan attendance of any team in the country this season, according to Pace.
“The community of Frisbee is unlike any other sport I've played,” said player Quinn Finer, who grew up around ultimate in Fort Collins and then later at the University of Colorado Boulder and club teams. He says the biggest draw for him personally is the sense of comradery.
“I played hockey when I was younger and the community in Frisbee is something pretty incredible. Something you don't see a lot in sports.”
Players say there’s a high emphasis on the spirit of the game. Most ultimate club leagues are self officiated and focus heavily on sportsmanship during disputed calls. In the AUDL, there is an honor rule where a player can override a referee’s decision but only if it helps the opposing team.
And no one is playing this sport to get rich. Colorado players earn $500 a season and get their hotel and travel covered.
For Morris, Colorado Summit has given him an exciting chance to play in the sport’s first professional league and on Colorado’s first professional ultimate team.
“I've had to pay my way through all of Frisbee, and so having an opportunity like this, to play Frisbee at a super competitive level where I'm not financially obligated to cover those costs and I still enjoy it at the end of the day, I'm just here to throw a bit of plastic and have fun.”
Ultimate teams tend to be connected to fans and their community — both through local leagues and financing.
Many of Summit’s players are current or former club and college players living in the area. And, in Colorado fashion, the team is sponsored by Wana brands, a cannabis edibles company based in Boulder. Pace currently works as a political consultant on cannabis and passenger rail.
On the ownership side, Pace, says in some ways he likens his love for ultimate with the energy and passion he brings to politics and campaigning.
“I'm probably way too engaged on social media trying to promote it and checking to see how the social media's doing and the followers or whatnot. And just as a candidate, even when I was running for Congress, I was way too engaged, too involved instead of sometimes letting other folks take over.”
But Pace says ultimate is important to the people who love it and he just wants the team to be successful.
“Bringing everyone together and trying to build community, it's not dissimilar to a political campaign.”
The Summit’s playoff game is August 20th at the University of Denver’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
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