Hoop Dreams

Welcome Home, Storm

After 25 years, Seattle's most successful pro sports team finally has a permanent home.

By Malia Alexander May 16, 2024

The Storm's new practice courts are exactly the same as the one at Climate Pledge Arena.

It’s an early Thursday morning in Interbay. The skies are clear and blue. The sun’s out, but there’s a crisp breeze—the first signs of spring.

On the corner of 17th Avenue and Bertona, across from the red French Mornings Preschool and surrounded by industrial buildings, stands a brand-new 50,000 square foot cement block that blends Brutalist architecture and Northwest Regional style. Six floor-to-ceiling windows allow the casual passerby a quick glimpse inside. On the top right corner of the building are the words “Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance,” in emerald green.

Inside, you’re immediately blinded by the reflection of four championship trophies—the Seattle team has won and tied for the most in WNBA history. The trophies lead you into the Hall of Champions, as the floor transforms into the hardwood salvaged from the team’s old KeyArena court. There’s a sneaker wall, celebrating iconic Storm players like Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson.

“You see the championship trophies. You’re walking on the championship court. You’re meant to feel like a champion,” says Lisa Brummel, one of the four owners that make up Force 10 Hoops LLC, the Storm’s ownership group, as she stands in front of an intimate sea of news cameras and reporters.

The facility fits in among industrial Interbay neighbors.

To her right is the entryway to a weight room. The dumbbells have Storm logos on them. The aquatic center has both hot and cold plunges, and a lap pool. Behind her are even more windows overlooking two basketball courts that mimic the exact court the team plays on at every home game at Climate Pledge Arena, down to the lightning bolts painted inside the three-point line and the Sue Bird logo that has graced the floor since her jersey retirement last year. A mural of the Seattle skyline is painted on the wall, with the Space Needle outlined in neon green. The smell of fresh laid wax fills the air—every basketball player’s favorite scent.

This year marks the Seattle Storm’s 25th anniversary season. After years of practicing at gyms not meant for them, staff and coaches not having offices, and renting spaces for a few hours at a time, the team finally has a home and a sense of permanence within the city.  Things that seemed like they should be automatic weren’t—and the Storm thrived anyway. Now they have the foundation in place to become an even bigger part of the city’s fabric.

But this dream didn’t come into fruition overnight. It started with a vision, way back in 2007. 


Once upon a time, the white pyramid roof was a basketball mecca for Seattle year-round. KeyArena, complete with its red seats, was home to two pro hoops teams—the SuperSonics in the winter and the Seattle Storm in the summer. The arena’s green and yellow courts housed some of the game’s greatest icons, from Gary Payton to Breanna Stewart. Both teams brought championships and the love of basketball to the city.

But only three years after the Storm clinched their first title trophy in 2004, and nearly 50 years after the Sonics won their first and only, talks of both teams moving to Oklahoma City were in the air. Still, fans flooded into the building, and among them were three season ticket holders, Dawn Trudeau, Ginny Gilder, and Lisa Brummel.

Ginny Gilder (left) and Lisa Brummel kept the Storm in Seattle after the Sonics left.

Trudeau and Brummel, both former Microsoft executives, had discussed the possibility of buying a team years before, ultimately deciding against it. But during half-time of a 2007 game, Trudeau approached Brummel again and asked, “Hey, would you be interested exploring [ownership] again if we could keep the Storm here?” Brummel did not hesitate. Trudeau also asked Ginny Gilder, a former Olympic rower who had led protests on behalf of the women’s crew team at Yale in her college days, and her response was the same: “Absolutely. Anything to help girls’ and women’s sports.”

The result was that while the Sonics were stolen off to Oklahoma City, the Storm remained.


“It’s still a surreal feeling of, Is this really ours?” says Jewell Loyd over a Zoom call in-between the team’s first two pre-season games. “We’re still trying to figure out the Bluetooth, and the pool, and the sauna.”

The long-time Storm guard has been with the team through it all. She’s been on rebuild teams. She’s been on championship teams. Going into her ninth season, she’s seen four arenas (five if you count the Covid “wubble” courts) and two practice centers. She’s played on two college campus courts and 30 minutes away (on a good day) in Everett.

“It was really nice of SPU to allow us to use their facilities,” she says. “But it wasn't ours. We were renters.” For its 25 years of existence, Seattle’s most decorated team had no dedicated practice facility, no home, and what, at times, seemed like no support from their city.

I have seen this play out time and time again. The Storm are constantly overlooked.

“Seattle needs a basketball team,” the other coach at my 9-year-old brother’s game tells me. “So your boys can watch some hoops.”

I—a 24-year-old ex-basketball player who peaked in high school (shout out to my meniscus, achilles, and femur) and is getting her fill through coaching her younger brother’s team—looked at him with a blend of disgust and confusion. “We do have a basketball team.”

“Yeah,” he smiles. “But it’s not the NBA.”


It’s October 6, 2020. The entire WNBA is at the IMG Academy in Florida, quarantining, testing negative, and still playing basketball. The Storm are playing in the finals against the Las Vegas Aces. They win the first game. Win the second. And dominate the third, 92-59. They are champions again.

Almost immediately, the team’s owners begin to discuss how the franchise can move forward as a successful franchise. “And that’s when we decided on a practice facility,” says Lisa Brummel. “We thought that would be our highest and best investment that we could make for the longevity of the team.”

The bleachers and shoe wall welcome visitors to the facility.

After that, everything moved fast. Ownership group Force 10 Hoops went straight to the city, secured available land, and started the permitting process. “We went through a difficult period around the Covid time where the city council couldn't agree on anything,” says Brummel. “But we got a 9-0 vote.”

Force 10 gave architects and construction a finish date of April 28, 2024—the first day of training camp ahead of their 25th anniversary season. They would be making history, as the first WNBA team to have their own practice facility dedicated to them from the ground up. Incredibly, the Storm were inside of their new home a week early.


15 sleek wooden lockers outline what might be the biggest room in the building. A giant whiteboard takes up an entire wall. The carpet mimics hardwood flooring, blending greens, yellows, blacks, and grays. The first locker upon entry belongs to Jewell Loyd. “Everything is dedicated to you,” she tells me.

The lockers themselves were even individualized based on player needs. Architects collaborated with some players, building foam-core models based off tests that included height, weight, and feedback on what they would put in their lockers.

When Nneka Ogwumike, one of the Storm’s newest additions, toured the facility for the first time, she told Lisa Brummel, “I’ve never had a locker of my own as a professional athlete.”

Nneka Ogwumike is preparing for her first season in Seattle.

Since the WNBA’s inception in 1997, the league has expanded to 12 teams. Yet, after 27 years of existence, only two of them have opened their own practice facility. Every NBA team has one. Last Thursday, the WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced a full charter program for the upcoming 2024 and 2025 seasons. The NBA has had chartered flights for decades.

“It's hard to make up for all the things that didn't happen in the past,” says Brummel. “All we can invest in is the expectation of what it should be like from this day forward. This is the standard. It will never be that way again for the Seattle Storm.”

It goes beyond the 30 wi-fi modules and the 560 light fixtures in the building. Beyond even the players’ lounge, complete with couches, TVs, dining tables.

“On the one hand, this is the players' home,” says Gilder. “But on the other hand this is also the home of youth basketball in Seattle. We’re giving them the shot to become their best selves.”

The franchise plans on launching its own youth basketball program, the Jr. Storm, that involves free camps and clinics made possible through corporate sponsors.

“It’s one thing to put this building here and help the neighborhood look nice,” says Brummel. “But if you said, Hey, you get to go to a professional facility and go to camp, like where professional basketball players play every day, that’s pretty cool for kids.”

“I want to make sure [the younger generation] has whatever they need to be successful,” says Jewell Loyd. “I just want every generational kid beyond us to just have access.”

Sue Bird may be retired but her legacy lives on at the Storm's new center.

It’s April 28. Lisa Brummel sits on the sidelines of the new practice facility. She watches as two courts are full of players in yellow and black practice jerseys running drills. There’s a certain, unexplainable energy in the air, and the building is filled to the brim with it. After 25 seasons, four championships, and two retired jerseys, the Seattle Storm finally have a permanent place to call home.

“I called Ginny and I told her she has to come,” says Brummel. “You have to see it because it’ll make you cry. You will see everything we dreamed of happening right before your eyes.”

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