Demographics put Wings in a financial bind

January 23, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

The Wichita Wings, the oldest professional indoor soccer club in the country, are on shaky financial ground.

Roy Turner, the president and general manager who has guided the community-owned Wings since their inception in 1979, estimates the team will lose about $100,000 this season.

The club is for sale, although no deal can be consummated before Feb. 23, the deadline established for the community to respond by buying season tickets and sponsorships for next season. The Wings are the only community-owned team in the National Professional Soccer League.

"We either need more financial backing from the community or an owner has to come forth," Turner said as the Wings arrived for their game against the Spirit tonight at the Baltimore Arena.

The Wings have been reasonably successful on the field (11-10) as well as at the gate, with a home attendance average of 4,805 that ranks seventh in the league, just ahead of the Spirit (4,702).

In 1992, when the Major Soccer League folded and the Wings joined the NPSL, the club raised $300,000 by selling publicly owned stock. Since then, Turner has been "running the club without cash," no mean trick.

"Maybe this is a sign of the times in small-town U.S.A.," Turner said, noting that Wichita is one of the smallest metropolitan markets in pro sports. "We have 300,000 to 400,000 people, and they have done a great job of supporting the club. It's sad that it has come to this."

Wichita will stage the NPSL All-Star Game Feb. 11. The revenue from that will help the Wings, but only a little.

All-Star coaches

Bruce Miller, in his first season as the Cleveland Crunch's coach, and the Milwaukee Wave's Keith Tozer will direct the American and National division All-Star squads, respectively. The honor goes to the coaches whose teams are in first place as of Jan. 29.

The Kansas City Attack leads the National almost as comfortably as Cleveland leads the American, but league policy bars a coach from participating two straight years, so the Attack's Zoran Savic is not eligible.

15 and counting

Former Severna Park High star Warren Westcoat had 59 saves, including 26 in the victory over the Spirit, as Kansas City swept three games over the weekend to extend its winning streak to an NPSL-record 15. That eradicates the 14-game mark set by the 1989-90 Canton Invaders, who went on to post the best record in league history en route to their fifth straight championship.

At 17-3 entering tonight's game against Milwaukee, the Attack may challenge Canton's record. So may Cleveland (21-2). The Crunch has won six straight after ticking off 10 in a row earlier this season.

Wade honored

Kansas City's Wes Wade, who had a goal and an assist against the Harrisburg Heat, five assists against Baltimore and four against the St. Louis Ambush, all the while playing tenacious defense, was named NPSL Player of the Week. He was a defender early in the team's 15-game streak, but has returned to his normal midfield position.

(NPSL standings, 7D)

Spirit tonight

Opponent: Wichita Wings

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)

Outlook: The Spirit has lost three straight and six of its past eight games and has slipped into fourth place in the NPSL's American Division. Spirit newcomer John Garvey has four goals for eight points in his first three games. Another newcomer, Gary Ross (three goals, three assists, 11 points in five games), is expected to sign another 15-day contract with the club. Wichita (11-10) is fourth in the National Division. Ted Eck leads the Wings with 74 points.

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