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Rough & Tumble taps into growing support for women’s sports

Two pool tables are in the center with four flat screens on either wall. Sports jerseys are below the TVs and a photo booth is set up to the left.
Feed It Creative
Rough and Tumble Pub
Rough and Tumble has 18 screens on which they will show both men's and women's sports on but will prioritize women.

Support for women’s sports is growing. Globally, Nielsen reports sponsorships increased by 146% from 2020 to 2021. In Seattle, the second-ever sports bar in the country to be dedicated to women’s sports is now open.

For the Seattle Majestics, a women’s tackle football team, having a dedicated space like this is huge. Part of growing women’s sports is growing its audience. And to do that fans need to be able to watch them.

That’s why the opening of the Rough & Tumble in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood means so much to the players on the Majestics. The team has been around for 20 years and they have a winning record. But still, most people don’t know they exist.

Sydney Holt has played seven seasons with the team. At Rough & Tumble's opening night with her teammates, she talked about how they are always trying to grow the game of women's football. Holt coaches football at Kent-Meridian High School. She hopes this new women's sports bar can give the Majestics more visibility.

"Having an establishment that puts our jerseys up on the wall, that live streams our games…it’s all so important for the growth of women’s football, all of it," Holt said. 

Holt’s teammate Catherine Vogt was taken aback by not only the sports bar itself but the warm reception it received from the community.

"It was incredible to see the number of people who are interested in spaces like this," Vogt said.

"It really felt kind of like walking into home. It felt like I was walking into a venue that had people that understood me, that was going to celebrate what our teams are doing, and that would celebrate where women are going in sports."

Rough & Tumble plans to show the Majestics games when their season starts in April. Other local women's teams are also excited for their games to be shown at the bar.

Seattle's NWSL team OL Reign is working with Rough & Tumble owner Jen Barnes to figure out how they can partner. Robin Anderson, OL Reign's marketing manager, hopes that they can host watch parties for away games at the pub.

The demand for a place that shows women's sports was evident on Rough & Tumble's first day of business. There was an hour-long wait to enter for most of the night. Cat Morazano attended with some people she plays soccer with. She recalled having trouble finding a place to watch a big OL Reign game.

"I got so much backlash just asking for them to play the game and I think that’s insane and it was a regular sports bar!" Morazano said.

"So I think it’s really cool that there’s an actual place where you don’t have to feel bad to ask to see a women’s sports game, they just have it on the screen."

Now in its second week of operation, Rough & Tumble welcomes all sports fans including those under 21 until 10 p.m., and those who want to watch men's sports too.

Grace Madigan covers arts and culture with a focus on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.