Topeka Pilots push ahead in year two

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Entering their second season in town, the Topeka Pilots are looking for ways to sustain themselves in Topeka.

The team does have a new lease in hand to at least guarantee its stay at the Stormont Vail Events Center for this season. But to build on some increased attendance from last year and continue to grow to keep the team in town, owner Lamar Hunt Jr. said that effort falls on the organization's shoulders.

"There needs to be some intentionality on our part to really have an organized approach to getting out into the community and we think we've got that in place now with our staff," Hunt said. "And it takes a few years or so to learn what you really need to do to attack the marketplace, if you will, and I think we have a pretty good sense of that.

"We are connected with some pretty key business leaders in the community. We still need to engage with those groups, there's a lot of big companies here and we really need to get them out."

Hunt said the attendance for opening week of this season doubled from where it was for the first couple of games from last season. He wants to emphasize more group ticket sales to increase numbers, but admits it's a process.

"There's also a certain art on how you reach potential fans we're still learning that," Hunt said. "But it's getting into that marketplace and exposing people to the sport. We don't expect everybody to convert to season tickets, that's a big leap. But come out two or three or four times a year."

With the sport's prior history in Topeka and regional popularity, Hunt continues to believe this is an area the Pilots can succeed in for the future.

"It's a great sports community," Hunt said. "We see that with the professional teams. We see it with the collegiate teams and we of course see it with the high school teams. And this team, it's not high school hockey, but it's pretty close to collegiate hockey because these kids are aspiring to do that.

"So I think there's an appreciation for sports in this market and I think we can build on that."