Roadrunners renamed Topeka Pilots
Neighboring Topeka is the home of a junior hockey team with a new name and new owner and a professional indoor football team is also returning to the State Capitol city.
The Topeka Pilots
Lamar Hunt Jr. of the Kansas City Chiefs Hunt family is navigating a new course for Topeka hockey, and he now has a new team name to reflect his endeavor, The Topeka Pilots, it has been reported.
Hunt, who purchased the Topeka RoadRunners Tier II junior hockey team from Don Stone in April, revealed the team’s new name recently during a gathering at the southeast entrance of the Kansas Expocentre.
Hunt said he and his team researched the history of the capital city and found a name that he believes “really reflects this community.”
Hunt and his staff are working on a team logo have yet to finalize a team logo to submit to the North American Hockey League for approval.
“I can say this (about the name): The obvious choice might have been the Topeka Capitals, but we felt like that was so common in the marketplace right now,” Hunt said. “We tried to look at what makes Topeka unique.
“I think it also ties into the military, of course. There’s a lot of pilots. There’s Navy pilots, there’s Air Force pilots, there’s Army pilots and things like that. I think it’s a noble profession, a noble undertaking, but there’s a certain level of commitment and fortitude (required) to be a pilot, and I think the same thing about athletes.”
Topeka’s aviation history dates to 1911, when Albin K. Longren, a self-taught airplane designer and pilot, built and flew an airplane at a farm 7 1/2 miles southeast of Topeka. Longren also took up barnstorming and became known throughout the Midwest as “Birdman” before establishing his own manufacturing company, Longren Aircraft Corp.
Topeka also is home to Philip Billard Municipal Airport, Topeka Regional Airport at Forbes Field, the Kansas Air National Guard and the Combat Air Museum.
While Hunt, a self-proclaimed history buff, sought a name that would resonate and connect with Topekans, he also said the team needed a new beginning after several years of waning interest and disappointing results on the ice.
This past year was especially difficult as the RoadRunners went 17-39, a record that not only was last in the NAHL’s South Division but also was worst in the entire league.
Hunt said he still is in the process of finalizing a contract with the Expocentre but has an agreement in principle for a one-year lease with a one-year option.
“We felt like we needed a fresh start, a fresh brand, a fresh identity to freshen up the whole scene of hockey here,” Hunt said. “Hats off to the past and all that was done here. There’s a long history of hockey here and we need to keep that going. “But I think it was time to move on from that (RoadRunners) name.”
Before revealing the Pilots name, Hunt noted that the team needs help and encouraged supporters to get involved — by volunteering to house players, by sharing the team’s message through social media or simply by coming to games this season, which will start in September.
The Kansas Kapitals
The National Gridiron League, a spring indoor football league which will begin competition in the spring of 2019, announced recently that it has awarded an expansion team to Topeka, with the Kansas Kapitals the league’s second announced franchise.
The Kansas Kapitals will play their games at the Kansas Expocentre’s Landon Arena.
“We are thrilled to welcome Topeka to the National Gridiron League,” said NGL president Joe McClendon III in a press release. “Topeka’s passion for football and the city’s vision for our newest team is very exciting and, along with the explosive growth in the capital city, it’s the perfect time for the NGL to come to the great state of Kansas. The expansion of the NGL into Topeka marks yet another positive move forward in the execution of our five-year strategic plan.
“Seeing that vision come into focus is a tribute to our incredible staff, ownership, and soon to be world-class players. The league is committed to bringing Topeka the elite-level professional team, stadium and fan experience it richly deserves. We look forward to working with the city and the Kansas Expocentre on a strategic and successful launch for Topeka’s NGL franchise.”
“Shawnee County is excited to welcome the Kansas Kapitals to the Kansas ExpocentrE,’’ Shawnee County commissioner Kevin Cook said in the release. “The addition of this team to our sports offerings will help draw more people to the area, to enjoy this great facility, as well as enjoy all that Topeka and Shawnee County have to offer.”
Additional news and information on the team, including players, management and staff is expected to be announced in the future.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to help bring another professional sports organization to Topeka,
Kansas Expocentre general manager Kellen Seitz said in the release. “Being the home for quality teams like these puts a great spotlight on Topeka as a community with a proud fanbase.”
The National Gridiron League is planning to have teams in 12 U.S. metropolitan areas throughout America in its debut 2019 season.
The Kansas Koyotes were an indoor football team in Topeka for 12 years, up until 2015. They were a chapter member of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League.
Before joining the CPIFL, the Koyotes were a chapter member of the American Professional Football League, where they won the league’s first six championships.