Wild-est dreams come true

New promotions to make arena football even better

By Kristin Baker

Since John Blazek started as general manager for the Wichita Wild seven months ago, Wild enthusiasm has not been lacking.

Blazek, who previously worked as an administrator in the Maize School District, found his perfect post-retirement career match in his new position. New ideas, promotions and partnerships will make the 2011 season for the Wild arena football team fun for all types of fans.

We've tried to bring in a lot of things so the community knows who the Wild are, Blazek said. We're more than a football team; we're good people. We like to help others, and we bring a really good brand of football.

Blazek was familiar with the game of football as he played at Wichita State University and coached throughout his career in public education. He color-commentated for the Wild for two years before team owner Wink Hartman called to offer Blazek the general manager position. I thought he was going to ask me to be his body guard when he was running for Congress, Blazek said. He asked me that, and I about fell out of my chair.

Blazek did not hesitate to accept the position. I've loved every day of it. My wife tells me I act like an 18-year-old, he said. This is a dream job for John Blazek.

So far, Wild things seem to be going well. Since the end of the 2010 season, season ticket holders have tripled and sponsorships have doubled. The community here has been unbelievable, Blazek said. In this kind of an economy, we feel pretty good about that.

One of Blazek's first acts as general manager was to survey fans to see why they enjoyed Wild football games. The responses included everything from watching a good football team to enjoying comfortable seating indoors to drinking a cold margarita.

Blazek took the fan feedback into account when creating new promotions. New this year will be a Kansas State High School Activities Association-approved drumline competition, where eight Kansas high school drumlines will attend Wild games and battle it out for the title of best Wild drumline. The drumlines will greet fans at the door and then battle it out for the win.

Winners will be determined by fan ovation. The grand prize winner will be given $1,000 toward the school's music program. Second place wins $700, and the remaining schools will receive $300 each. I did that because I am a huge fine arts person and believer in enthusiasm and excitement at a football game, Blazek said.

In addition to listening to the drumlines before the game, trailers featuring food and merchandise by Wild sponsors will be plentiful. Sponsors include Papa John's Pizza, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Furniture on Consignment, to name a few.

Children will not be left out of the pre-game festivities. The Paul Mitchell Hair School will sponsor the Wild Kid Zone, where children can have wild eyes painted, receive orange and black hair and get their nails painted.

House of Hair will sell hair flares for half price, $5, at the games. Hair flares are colored, sparkly hair pieces. House of Hair also will sponsor the ball girls, who are on the field making sure fans are enjoying their experience. Roxanne Aubrey, co-owner of House of Hair, said she is proud to sponsor the Wild. Really, I feel like it's going to be one of the up-and-coming sports around the area, Aubrey said. It's just nice to have something like that in the area. Its a good opportunity for us.

The ball girls also hope to attend new, live broadcasts of the away Wild games at the west side Emerson Biggins location at 2330 N. Maize Rd., No. 300.

Another added excitement factor at home games will be the addition of Harley Davidson as a Wild sponsor. Harley will bring out six motorcycles to help introduce the players before the game.

Another new feature this year will be The Wild Side, an apparel store featuring the team's new merchandising line, headed up by merchandising director Liz Harrison. The store was named by holding a fan contest.

All of the new additions to the Wild excitement will be assisted by the Wild Thing dance team and the mascot, Parky.

Blazek does not manage all facets of the Wild alone; he is assisted by assistant general manager James Bain. He's really good, and he makes my job a lot easier, Blazek said.

Blazek also spoke highly of the team's head coach Ken Matous. He's the best coach in the league. We both have the same values; we were both raised by dads who were high school football coaches, and we both think alike.

All of the elements together combine to make a positive football spectator experience, and Blazek is promoting it in a large way. [An acquaintance] said to me, John, everywhere I go people are talking about the Wild. You're really getting the name out there, he said. That's what I want. It makes me feel good.

To purchase Wichita Wild season tickets starting at $80 per ticket, contact the Wild at (316)927-3999.

Many of the Wild's players played their college ball in the Midwest. Here is a handful of fan favorites.

Player and college
Jake Sharp, University of Kansas
Rashad Washington, Kansas State University
Randy Kelly, University of Arkansas
Darius Fudge, Western Carolina

Wichita Wild Coaches Clinic:

April 2 ($25)
Includes entry to Friday night's Wild game, themed Friday Night Lights and playing vs. the Odessa, Texas, Roughnecks. Call (326)440-5044

Wichita Wild First Annual Drumline Competition Schedule

Mulvane vs. Augusta: March 12, 5:15
Rose Hill vs. Circle: March 26
SE vs. Scott City: April 1
El Dorado vs. Hutch Trinity: April 16

Friend the Wild on Facebook, or download the new Wichita Wild iPhone application.

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