For a time in the 1980s, Wichita was at the center of the international soccer stage.
Stars of the game played for Wichita’s home team then, and thousands of Wichitans packed into the Kansas Coliseum to watch their team play in a major soccer league.
Sedgwick County even dedicated March 24, 1996 as “Roy Turner Day,” after the former coach of the Wings. “The name Roy Turner is synonymous with soccer in Wichita and Sedgwick County, with the Wings drawing more than 3 million fans,” the minutes of a County Commission meeting read.
Now Tim O’Bryhim has made it his mission to remind Wichitans of the world-class soccer team they once had.
O’Bryhim, who co-authored a book about the Wichita Wings in 2016, is producing a documentary film about the team slated for release in the fall. He is collaborating with local filmmaker Adam Knapp on the project.
O’Bryhim said the Wings story “had never really been put down in one place” before he co-wrote the book, “Make This Town Big.”
“While we were writing the book, we would say ‘I wish people could see this stuff that we’re writing about,’” O’Bryhim said.
In its heyday, Wichita Wings players became household names in Wichita, according to Turner, the former coach.
“It was like having Michael Jordan here in Wichita,” O’Bryhim said. “You could meet the Wings. If you were an adult, you could go to the bar and drink with the Wings.”
Some former players eventually came to call Wichita home, though others settled elsewhere.
O’Bryhim said Turner often brought Wings players to visit elementary schools and demonstrate soccer skills.
“They had cool accents, they were funny,” O’Bryhim said. “Kids fell in love with them; the women in town fell in love with them.
“They were exotic and they wore short shorts.”
For 13 seasons, Wichita competed right alongside teams from New York City and Los Angeles.
“The Wings were sort of the Green Bay Packers of indoor soccer,” O’Bryhim said. “They [the Packers] compete against the big cities, just like the Wings.”
“It was a major breakthrough for a sports team (from Wichita) to reach that national level,” said Turner, the team’s former coach. “Who would’ve thought, little old Wichita? But we did it.”
While soccer brought Turner – a Liverpool, England native – to Wichita, the community kept him here. He now serves as the tournament director of the Air Capital Classic golf tournament.
“What kept me here was the people in Wichita,” Turner said. “It’s a great community to be a part of.”
O’Bryhim and the documentary film team are planning a trip to England and Denmark to interview prominent former Wings players this summer.
Aero Plains Brewing, 117 N. Handley, is hosting an event at 7 p.m. Saturday to support the documentary film effort and help raise money for the trip to Europe.
Aero Plains has a beer on tap named after star Wings player Chico Borja, one of the Major Indoor Soccer League’s all-time highest scoring players.
One dollar from every “Chico Beer-ja” beer sold will be donated to the film effort, with the check being presented to the documentary team on Saturday. There will also be an auction for Wings artwork and memorabilia to raise money for the film.
“We’re trying to visit Europe and reconnect with Wichita’s past, connect with these really positive feelings people in Wichita had in the 1980s,” O’Bryhim said. It was an important moment in Wichita’s history when the entire city came together for this soccer team.”
To keep up with the film, visit www.facebook.com/wichitawingsmovie.
Fundraiser for the Wichita Wings Movie
When: 7-9 p.m. Sat.
Where: Aero Plains Brewing, 117 N. Handley
What: An auction for original Wings artwork by Johnny Freedom and a raffle for Wings memorabilia, a set of Wings player figurines, and gift cards to Churn and Burn, Green Clean, and Hong’s Landscaping. A portion of the proceeds from sales of Aero Plains’ “Chico Beer-ja” beer will be donated to the filmmaking effort.