Wichita Wings 40th Anniversary Season 2019-2020
During the autumn of 1979, Roy Turner methodically put together a team of soccer pros to play for a brand, spanking new sports franchise called the Wichita Wings. They would compete in an upstart league playing something called “indoor soccer.” History has a way of repeating itself. Indoor soccer is no longer new, but 40 years later, the Wichita Wings brand is back in action once again in one of the world’s most fast-paced and exciting sports.
In the original version of the Wings, a youth soccer organizer named Tom Marshall had a vision of bringing two professional teams from the North American Soccer League to Wichita to play an exhibition game that would raise money to build new soccer fields for Wichita’s youth. That exhibition game featured Roy Turner in his last appearance on the field with the Dallas Tornado. Of course, the relationships forged that weekend led to Turner being named the first coach of the Wichita Wings.
Today, another youth soccer organizer, this one named Blake Shumaker, is making the jump to the professional indoor game. His FC Wichita franchise has achieved success outdoors, and now he hopes to equal, or even exceed, that success inside the friendly confines of Hartman Arena.
"Although I won't personally be the operational face of the Wichita Wings management team , I 'm very proud to have helped connect the dots for this great group of owners," said Shumaker. "These guys are life long Wings fans so they know the history and what a successful indoor franchise can mean for this part of the state."
In 1979, success was no guarantee. Local businessman Bob Becker was the owner of the team. He brought in Turner to coach it and Marshall to run it. These founding fathers were joined by founding mother Jackie Knapp, who ran the team’s PR operation. Though people would come and go from the organization, these individuals laid the groundwork for the team’s later successes.
That first year of the Wings’ existence, 40 years ago, saw the arrival of some of the greatest players in the team’s history. Kevin Kewley, longtime team captain, was an early arrival who turned out to be one of the great Wings defenders of all time. He was so good, in fact, that his number was retired in the 1990s.
Norman Piper was the team’s first signee and played a starring role for half of the 1980s.
Omar Gomez came to the team from Argentina. His fiery temper earned him a reputation with league officials, but his goal scoring couldn’t be stopped. The 29 goals in his first year speak for themselves.
Of course, one of the great Wings personalities arrived in Wichita 40 years ago. Andy Chapman, a young lad from the east end of London, would make thousands of Wichitans fall in love that first year. But it was on the field that he made his biggest mark. The dashing forward could score with his left foot, right foot, head, or upside-down, via his patented bicycle kick. Off the field, his leather pants could be seen all across town, especially at the Hatch Cover for post-game parties.
Only time will tell about which one of the new Wings will become a star. Who knows, maybe the tryouts on November 23rd and 24th will reveal a future team MVP? One thing is for sure: one of the greatest legacies of the Wings is a love affair with the city of Wichita. That legacy is now back on track thanks to a new team with a storied name.