Madison’s professional soccer team officially has a name, colors, crest and logo, which are … very Madison, to say the least.
Forward Madison FC will be represented on its crest by the city’s official bird — the pink plastic flamingo.
The name, which comes from the Wisconsin state motto, was revealed in a ceremony at the Wisconsin Historical Society on Sunday before a crowd of about 425 enthusiastic supporters. It was one of hundreds of submissions from community members, which were winnowed down to 32 finalists and voted on by supporters.
Forward Madison promotional video
One of the other suggestions was the Madison Flamingos, a reference to the pink plastic lawn ornaments that first appeared on the University of Wisconsin campus in 1979 in a prank by notorious Pail and Shovel Party leaders Leon Varjian and James Mallon. While that name didn’t make the cut, the club decided to use the image to represent the feel of the city.
“(The Pail and Shovel Party’s) creativity, genius, whimsy and independence reminds us that life and soccer, especially in Madison, should be fun and a bit irreverent,” Forward Madison General Manager Peter Wilt told the crowd. “The colors, pink and light blue, the sash and roman numerals are all representative icons of Madison, the city that Forward Madison will represent with pride.”
The sash in the logo, designed by local advertising firm Planet Propaganda, represents the isthmus and the Roman numerals — DCVIII — represent Madison’s area code, 608.
Wilt said he was pleasantly surprised by the crowd, which he said was larger than the crowd on hand when the new Major League Soccer club Chicago Fire was announced in 1997. In fact, Wilt said he asked several athletes in town for tryouts to come down to the event, just in case no fans showed up.
“We asked our trialists to come down here to kind of make sure we had at least 30 or 40 people here,” Wilt said. “I’m glad they could be here because they got to see the excitement that the town has for the team and now I think they want to be part of this more than ever.”
“I think it looks amazing. I think it’s a great name,” said supporter Scott McDonell, who is also Dane County Clerk and a former goalkeeper for the University of Wisconsin. “And the logo is awesome. They did just a great job with that and it’s very Madison. It reflects the community.”
McDonell praised the team’s owners, who also own the Madison Mallards baseball team, for generating excitement for soccer in Madison.
“They’ve done such a good job of promoting it,” McDonell said. “We had the Muskies and we had other (baseball) teams, there were fans there, but nothing compared to the Mallards and that’s what you’re seeing. The same competence and ability to market is being used for a Forward Madison.”
Following the ceremony fans lingered to buy merchandise and chat with Wilt, head coach Daryl Shore and other Forward Madison execs, and to look at artists’ renderings of the improvements being made to Breese Stevens Field, where Forward will play its home games.
“It’s Madison, pure Madison,” said supporter Tina Colvin of the name. “It’s short, it’s easy to say, you can cheer it.”
“I think that’s really important” that the name came from the community, said supporter Chris Bursian. “It lets the community be a bit more invested in a team with the name coming from the community rather than some corporate cooked-up name.”
Wilt said almost 500 season tickets have been sold for the club’s inaugural campaign, which will begin in March and run through next October. Wilt said the first 1,856 season ticket buyers will get special benefits, a nod to the year of Madison’s founding.
“I’m a bit of a history geek, if you couldn’t tell,” Wilt said.
The team will compete in USL League One, a new 10-team league that includes established clubs like FC Tucson and Richmond Kickers, teams fielded by MLS clubs like Orlando City and FC Dallas, and new clubs like Forward Madison, Lansing Ignite and Chattanooga Red Wolves. Long-established clubs Penn FC and Rochester Rhinos are slated to join the league in 2020. The 28-game season will culminate in a four-game playoff. Wilt has said the team will also compete in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.