New indoor football team on its way to Wichita

By: KAKE Sports Email
By: KAKE Sports Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- It is without a name or a place to call home, but a new indoor football team will play in Wichita in the upcoming arena football season.

Local businessman Marvin Fisher and a group of ten investors are bringing indoor football back to the area after the Wichita Wild ceased operations in July. Fisher and his investors were on board to buy the Wild when the deal fell through in the late stages of the transaction.

"We were in negotiations and we were not able to reach a mutually beneficial contract for both of us, and that's when it ended," Fisher said.

"What happens with the rest of (the Wild) is not my call."

While that effort was without a positive result for the franchise Wink Hartman built, it did not deter Fisher and his members of Wichita Indoor Football, LLC from looking for other options.

Fisher took the Wild's head coach, Paco Martinez, and allowed him to hold the clipboard once again. He named former Wild executive Ashley Lawless the new team's general manager. The next personnel move is to acquire former Wild players.

"I have been in contact with just about every player off of last year's squad and the response that I got from the players has been absolutely overwhelming," Fisher said as he reiterated his organization's theme, "Family."

It's not a stretch to presume this is a family affair. Fisher is a former Wild fan who attended games and even practices, getting close to the players, coaches, and their families. He would bring ice cream for the team on Thursdays. He would invite players to dinner at his home, and help them with job opportunities. Looking at his wife Vickie, he told her, "Honey, nobody is going to take these guys away."

His relationship with former Wild head coach Paco Martinez made his coaching hire an easy one. Martinez led the Wild to the CPIFL title in 2013 in his first year as the team's head coach. His network is vast among the player pool and he had survived the tumultuous two months after the closing of the Wild. He was due for a good break, and he got it with Fisher.

"The business decision had to be made and it was kind of a kick to the gut. It was tough and I didn't know what I was going to do. Coaching jobs aren't that easy to find. That's why it took me ten years to get to one where I could actually get paid for it. So, it was a rough couple of months but this is all finalized and I'm happy to start moving forward," said Martinez.

But skeptics would say it's not all finalized. Without an arena to play in, the team will face many challenges. It's still a possibility for it to play in Hartman Arena, but the relationship between Fisher's group and the Hartman group is strained, despite Fisher's comments made in kindness to Wink Hartman's character on Thursday.

Morrie Sheets of Hartman Sports Group echoed Hartman's sentiment toward Fisher today to KAKE Sports saying, "We wish him the best."

But the Hartman group has also said the ill-fated deal between the groups hinged upon Fisher's desire to play at Kansas Star Arena, which currently has no field, scoreboard, or football locker rooms. Meanwhile, just under 30% of the Wild's fans each season were children, which may be a tough sell for many fans to pay tolls in order to take their kids to a casino in Mulvane.

Still, Fisher says he is amazed by the types of offers that have come his way in regards to finding a new home. In the interim, he asks for patience from his "family."

"Give me some time," he said. "This franchise is less than 72 hours old... We're just getting started."

As the priority items get addressed, eventually the Wichita area fan base will be consulted about a team name, perhaps through a vote or contest which could determine its identity. Whatever the team is called, it will be a part of a 14 or 15 team league which results from the merger of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League and Lone Star Football League.

The name of that league will be announced Friday.

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