Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Fan Support on Ice ; Attendance Down after Battle to Keep Local Hockey Team

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Fan Support on Ice ; Attendance Down after Battle to Keep Local Hockey Team

Article excerpt

Wearing Topeka RoadRunners jerseys, fans of the team passionately urged the Shawnee County Commission on May 4 to approve a lease that would keep the junior amateur hockey team in Topeka.

Commissioners Kevin Cook, Shelly Buhler and Bob Archer voted July 9 to adopt a lease agreement keeping the RoadRunners in Topeka through at least the end of the 2017-18 season.

But Cook, the commission chairman, lamented at the Sept. 14 commission meeting that when he attended the team's Sept. 11 home opener at the Kansas Expocentre's Landon Arena, one thing in particular was missing: People.

"The county commission fought long and hard to save hockey for Shawnee County," Cook said. "The Expocentre fulfilled its part by making sure the event space was ready and open. Now we need the people. So I would ask all of you who said that you would support hockey -- now is your chance to do so."

Concern about the viability of hockey in this community stems in part from the fact that two Topeka hockey teams have failed. Those were the Topeka Scarecrows, who played from 1998 to 2001 in the Central Hockey League and from 2001-03 in the junior amateur U.S. Hockey League, and the Topeka Tarantulas, who played from 2004-05 in the CHL.

The RoadRunners have played in the junior amateur North American Hockey League since moving to Topeka in 2007 from Santa Fe, N.M.

In an interview Friday, Cook said he is seeking to rally community support for the RoadRunners -- and encouraged people who haven't attended one of their games to give them a try -- at a time when many of the seats at their games sit empty.

Average attendance at the RoadRunners' first four games this season was down about 40 percent compared to the average for all of last season, said H.R. Cook, of the Pennsylvania-based management company SMG, who serves as the Expocentre's general manager. …

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