Team president Joseph Pindell (left) and head coach Larry Inlow introduce Wichita's new indoor soccer team, the Wichita B-52s.
B-52s ready for takeoff
By Matt Heilman
Last Updated: August 29, 2013
This time fans won't have to wait a decade for a new indoor soccer team. About three months after the second coming of the Wichita Wings franchise folded, a new team with a new name and logo was unveiled at an Aug. 22 press conference at Hartman Arena.
Starting in November, the Wichita B-52s will pick up where the Wings left off.
"We always knew that Wichita was a good market," said Kevin Milliken, the commissioner of the B-52s new league, the Professional Arena Soccer League.
The B-52s will share the same blue and orange color scheme as the Wings and they'll play their home games in Hartman Arena starting in November. A coach with ties to the Wings will guide the new team.
That's about where the similarities end. The B-52s play in a different league than the Wings under different management. The Wings were under the same management as the Wichita Wild indoor football team that also calls Hartman Arena home.
The president of the B-52s is Joseph Pindell, a former ticket sales and account representative with the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. Larry Inlow, a former player for the original Wings franchise who played several years of professional indoor soccer, will coach Wichita's new indoor soccer team.
Inlow retired a few years ago after playing his final season with the San Diego Sockers, a representative of the PASL that includes 20 teams from across the United States and Mexico. The Wings were affiliated with the Major Indoor Soccer League. Before taking over as the new franchise's head coach, Inlow was an assistant coach for the Wings.
Inlow, a 1993 graduate of Wichita Southeast High School, became a two-time Collegiate All-American during his college soccer career at Newman University in Wichita. In 2010, Inlow was inducted into the Newman University Hall of Fame.
The new B-52s coach has also served as an EMT and firefighter for the City of Wichita. Milliken said bringing on a former Wings player to coach the new franchise should help excite the core group of diehard fans that were the strongest supporters of the Wings as part of "The Orange Army."
Milliken explained that Wichita's new team couldn't keep the Wings name because of a two-year non-compete clause. He also indicated it made sense to change up the name of Wichita's indoor soccer team to assure that it's not confused with the city's Independent League Baseball team, the Wingnuts.
In addition to kickstarting the effort to keep professional indoor soccer in the Wichita area, Milliken came up with the new team's name. The idea was to have some fun with a name that honors Wichita's aviation heritage.
The PASL commissioner also likes the enjoyment fans may find in playing off the team's shared name with the quirky band that rolled out such hits as "Love Shack" and "Rock Lobster."
Milliken explained that community support would be essential for the B-52s' success and marketing would be key, getting the team active in the Wichita area, beyond just the soccer community.
He said the key for long-term success will be to build off the strong base of soccer fans already in place.
"The people that we need to go get are the people that want to be entertained," Milliken said. "That's what we want to go after is to expand on the great base that's already here."
With about 16 years of experience at the helm of running an indoor soccer league, Milliken said the PASL has been successful with its community outreach efforts and marketing strategies. The teams in the PASL also have lower operating costs.
"(The B-52s) will be on solid footing financially with our business model," Milliken sad. "We have plans to expand and different philosophies to bring in new fans."
The new league also differs from the Wings' former league with a few rules, Milliken said. In the PASL, each goal is worth only one point, but opportunities are often presented for attackers to find open space working the ball up field.
There's a six-foul rule in play where a team can go on the power play for two minutes after each foul its opponent commits past its fifth foul of the game.
Also, defenders are not allowed to slide tackle attackers. Milliken said teams in the PASL average about five goals per game and last season, 15 contests were decided in sudden death overtime. He said the PASL consists of teams with young, fresh talent that plays the game fast and aggressive.
The B-52s schedule includes home games on Nov. 9, Nov. 23, Dec. 7, Dec. 14, Dec. 28, Jan. 10, Jan. 18, Feb. 1 and Feb. 9.
The inaugural roster for the B-52s will be decided with a tryout likely in the second or third week of September. Milliken said VenuWorks, Hartman Arena's management company, has been instrumental in helping to keep indoor soccer alive in north Sedgwick County.
"They've been proactive in helping the B-52s be successful in their launch. When they told the city they were gonna keep indoor soccer in Wichita, they meant it," Milliken said.