'A Sea Of Orange': Wichita Wings Superfans Recount Team's Glory Years In New Book

Jul 8, 2016

In its prime, a Major League Indoor Soccer team called the Wichita Wings was a huge deal in the 1980s in Kansas and the indoor soccer world in general. Two fans who still have a special place in their hearts for the team recently wrote a book about the Wings' success and their impact on Wichita. KMUW's Abigail Wilson recently spoke with authors Tim O'Bryhim and Mike Romalis.

Some highlights from the interview:

From left to right: World-class soccer star Jorgen Kristensen (red, white, and blue jacket), former English Premier League player Terry Nicholl, Mike's sister, former Premier League player Jeff Bourne, and Mike Romalis, co-author of the book.
Credit Courtesy Mike Romalis

Mike Romalis on his first Wings game: "My parents took my sister and I to our first game. It was November 1982 against the St. Louis Steamers. I had just turned 6 years old. Very, very overwhelming. I had never been taken to an event like that, and it was just loud and crazy and wild. But we were hooked. It was from the get-go. And so the Wichita Wings, that experience, it really defined my childhood."

On the atmosphere at Wings games: "The Kansas Coliseum was like this oasis on the hill. And once you got inside you'd smell the popcorn and the hotdogs and the cigarette smoke. This cigarette smoke was overwhelming because you could smoke in the building, of course, at that time. Tou'd smell the beer and the Coke. But then you'd hear the sounds, people with their air horns.

The Wichita Wings' logo.
Credit Wikipedia

"Even the clothes were loud. I mean, it was a sea of orange. You'd never wear orange any other day of what your life except when you go to a Wings game, and it was just a sea of orange and blue and satin and polyester and bad haircuts, of course. You know, this was the 80s."

On the Wings' glory years: "The era that we are covering in this book was sort of more of the glory years when it was really hot, when it was really cooking, so between 1979 and 1992. After that the Wings joined another league. The MISL, the original League the wings were in folded, so the Wings joined the National Professional Soccer League.

"It wasn't quite at the same level. The budgets were smaller and so consequently the excitement just kind of started to wane, I think, over that period of time in the 90s. And then...the Wings went out of business frankly with kind of a whimper."

The Wings' "flight song":

Tim O'Bryhim on the league's impact on Wichita: "This was a huge story for Wichita. ...This was a big-time league in little Wichita."

On the Wings' end: "Although I think it is true it did fail, it's important to understand that the Wings, when they folded in 2001, they were the longest-running soccer franchise in United States.

"But, you know, the orange army is still around. It's been dormant for a while, but those people still love the Wings."

In honor of the book release, Tim O'Bryhim and Mike Romalis will be throwing a launch party with many of the coaches, players and staff in attendance. For more information, visit their Facebook page

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Follow Abigail Wilson on Twitter @AbigailKMUW.

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