Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1972-1985 Kansas City-Omaha Kings / Kansas City Kings

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Kansas City-Omaha KingsNational Basketball Association (1972-1985)

Born: 1972 – The Cincinnati Royals relocate to Kansas City & Omaha.
Moved: 1985 (Sacramento Kings)


Team Colors:


NBA Championships: None


The Kansas City Kings were a middling NBA franchise that had just four winning seasons during thirteen years in town. The club arrived in 1972 as the relocated Cincinnati Royals. Since Kansas City already had the Royals baseball team, the team re-branded itself as the Kings. At first, the franchise split its time between Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium and the Omaha Civic Auditorium, 180 miles to the north in Nebraska. The team was formally known as the Kansas City-Omaha Kings from 1972 until 1975.

The Kings moved into the brand-new Kemper Arena in downtown Kansas City in 1974. For the 1975-76 season, the Kings abandoned their Omaha games and settled in at Kemper full-time.

The team’s best seasons came during the tenure of head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Fitzsimmons was named the NBA’s Coach-of-the-Year in 1979 as the Kings enjoyed their best season by record (48-34) and won their only division chamionships. The Kings made the playoffs four times in Fitzsimmons’ six seasons between 1978 and 1984. The franchise’s finest hour in Kansas City came during the 1981 playoffs. Despite entering the postseason as a 6th seed with a losing regular season record, the Kings knocked off the top-seeded Phoenix Suns and advanced to the Western Conference finals. They lost the semi-finals to the Houston Rockets in five games.

Off the court, the Kings continued to flounder as the 1970’s turned to the 1980’s.

Kansas City KingzIn June 1979, the roof at the five year-old Kemper Arena partially collapsed during a wind storm. Kemper was closed for 10 months and the Kings were forced to play most of the 1979-80 season back at tiny old Municipal Auditorium.

In the fall of 1981 the Kansas City Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League set up shop at Kemper Arena. Playing a winter season that mirrored the NBA’s calendar, the Comets walloped the Kings at the box office. During the inaugural season in 1981-82, the Comets averaged 11,508 fans per game at Kemper. The Kings’ average was a paltry 6,644.  Year later, Kings’ coach Cotton Fitzsimmons was moved to comment on the Comets’ impact:

“Here’s something that’s not even a game,” said Fitzsimmons, quoted in The Houston Chronicle in April 1985. “They make up the rules as they go along.  But they’ve marketed aggressively and they’ve taken Kansas City by storm.”

Tragedy struck on the eve of the 1982-83 season. Forward Bill Robinzine, the Kings’ top draft pick in 1975 and a solid defender for Kansas City’s late ’70’s squads, committed suicide at age 29. Robinson last played for Kansas City in 1980. He was out of basketball at the time, hoping to land an overseas contract in Europe.

In June of 1983 a Sacramento-based group purchased the Kings from the team’s local ownership for a reported $10.5 million. The new group, fronted by Gregg Lukenbill, made little secret of their desire to relocate the Kings to California’s capital once the team’s Kemper Arena lease expired in 1985. The new owners made it official in January 1985, announcing the team would leave Kansas City at the end of the 1984-85 campaign. Barry Petchesky at Deadspin has an excellent account of the Kings’ final days as the team maneuvered itself out of town.


Kansas City Kings Memorabilia


Kings Video


In Memoriam

Power forward Bill Robinzine (Kings ’75-’80) committed suicide on September 16, 1982 at the age of 29.

Owner Leon Karosen (Kings ’73-’83) passed away on May 10, 1990 at age 73.

Head Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons (Kings ’78-’84) died of lung cancer on July 24, 2004. Fitzsimmons was 72. New York Times obituary.

Center Sam Lacey (Kings ’72-’81) died on March 14, 2014 at 66 years of age. New York Times obituary.



2006-2008 Kansas City Brigade

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Kansas City BrigadeArena Football League (2006-2008)

Born: October 3, 2005 – Arena Football League expansion franchise
Folded: August 2009


Team Colors:


Arena Bowl Championships: None


The Kansas City Brigade were the first of several attempts to establish the sport of Arena Football in Kansas City. Former Kansas City Chiefs star Neil Smith and his agent Tyler Prochnow were the team’s original investors.  They bought into the Arena Football League for a reported $16M – $18M in October 2005.  The duo’s expansion bid appeared stalled during the summer of 2005. But then Hurricane Katrina struck and devastated New Orleans. The AFL’s popular New Orleans Voodoo club would be unable to participate in the 2006 season as the city rebuilt. The disaster gave the AFL expansion committee new urgency to get a deal done with Prochnow and Smith. Kansas City was announced as the AFL’s 18th city in October 2005. The league stocked Kansas City’s roster with 15 refugee players from the homeless Voodoo franchise.

The club announced it’s name and logo a month later in November 2005. Going for a military theme, the team oddly misfired by pairing an Air Force-derived stealth bomber logo with a team name

Within a matter of months Prochnow brought local mortgage baron Chris Likens into the ownership group. Over the course of the next year, Likens would assume control of the franchise. Prochnow’s original group departed and Likens installed various relatives into what became effectively a family-run business.

Neil Smith’s former Chiefs teammate Kevin Porter was installed as Head Coach. The Brigade’s debut season in 2006 was brutal on the field. Voodoo holdover Andy Kelly struggled at quarterback and the Brigade shipped him out midseason. The position never solidified, contributing to a 3-13 last place finish. The team was a popular draw at Kemper Arena though. Announced attendance of 15,234 per game for eight home dates was third best in the 18-team AFL.

The 2007 season saw a dramatic turnaround. Porter returned for another season at the helm. The Brigade finished 10-6 and earned their first and only postseason appearance. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Colorado Crush. But the novelty of Arena Football appeared to wear thin in Kansas City. Attendance dipped 24% to 11,632 per game.

In 2008, the Brigade left Kemper Arena and moved into the brand new 17,000-seat Sprint Center. The team reverted to its expansion season form and lost its first six game en route to a 3-13 season.  The franchise earned a bit of national media attention late in the season by signing former Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Quincy Carter. Carter started the final three games of the season for the Brigade.

The Arena Football League collapsed suspended operations following the 2008 season and later filed for bankruptcy in August 2009. A low-budget spinoff of the league re-emerged in 2010 and gradually lured back a few of the original AFL’s former owners. The Likens family revived the Brigade in 2011 with a slight re-branding “Kansas City Command”). The Command played to paltry crowds at the Sprint Center for two more seasons before shutting down for good in 2012.



Kansas City Brigade Video

Short highlight reel from the Brigade’s 2006 debut season at Kemper Arena



Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs



Written by Drew Crossley

November 15th, 2017 at 12:28 am

1961-1962 Kansas City Steers

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1961-62 Kansas City Steers Media GuideAmerican Basketball League (1961-1963)

Born: 1961 – ABL founding franchise
Folded: December 31, 1962


Team Colors:

Owner: Kenneth A. Krueger

ABL Championships: 1963* (*Sort of…)


The Kansas City Steers were one of the best entries in Abe Saperstein’s short-lived American Basketball League. The Harlem Globetrotters impresario aimed to compete with the NBA in major markets around the country and succeeded in luring top talent to the circuit.

The Steers’ starting five of Bill Bridges (F), Maury King (G), Nick Mantis (G), Larry Staverman (F) and Bumper Tormohlen (C) all played in the NBA. Bridges, a rookie of the University of Kansas in 1961, finished fourth in the ABL in scoring with 21.4 points per game in 1961-62. He was leading the league with 29.2 per contest when the league folded midway through its sophomore campaign.

The Steers posted the best record in the ABL in each of the league’s two seasons.  In 1961-62, the Steers went 28-12. They met the Cleveland Pipers in the ABL championship series in April 1962. The Steers blew out the Pipers by 25 points and 36 points respectively in the first two games in Kansas City. But they could not close the deal on the road in Ohio. The series  was due to return to Kansas City for decisive Game 5 on April 8th, 1962. That’s when things when haywire.

The Steers primary home, Municipal Auditorium, booked the Ice Capades for April 8th. The Steers booked the 1,500-seat Mason-Halpin Fieldhouse on the campus of tiny Rockhurst College for the title contest. Pipers owner George Steinbrenner (yes, that one) was outraged, believing Saperstein promised the series finale to Cleveland. As the teams bickered with each other and the ABL office, the Pipers no-showed for Game 5 at Rockhurst College. Rather than forfeit the game to the Steers, Saperstein decreed the game would now be played the following night, April 9th, 1962, at Rockhurst. This time the Pipers showed and dealt the Steers a crushing 106-102 defeat.

The Steers came back for the ABL’s second season in the fall of 1962. By now the league was on shaky ground. Only three of the league’s eight founding clubs remained in their original cities of a year earlier. Steinbrenner folded the league champion Pipers after a failed attempt to run off and join the NBA.

The Steers were once again the class of the league, racing out to a 22-9 record in the fall and early winter of 1962. But the ABL’s woes proved insurmountable, and the Steers closed their doors along with the rest of the league on New Year’s Eve 1962. The ABL declared the Steers to be league champions for 1963 by virtue of having the league’s best record at the time of closing.


In Memoriam

Forward Larry Staverman died on July 12, 2007 at the age of 70. After playing for the Steers, Staverman went on to become the first head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1967.

Steers forward Bill Bridges passed away on September 15, 2015 from cancer at age 76. Kansas City Star obituary



American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs


1990-2001 Kansas City Blades

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1996-97 Kansas City Blades YearbookInternational Hockey League (1990-2001)

Born: February 26, 1990 – The Toledo Goaldiggers relocate to Kansas City
Folded: June 4, 2001

Arena: Kemper Arena (15,771)

Team Colors: Red, Black & Silver


Turner Cup Champions: 1992


Text coming soon…


Kansas City Blades Memorabilia


Kansas City Blades Video

The Blades vs. the Denver Grizzlies. Game 4 of the 1995 Turner Cup finals at Kemper Arena.



International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs



Written by Drew Crossley

January 8th, 2017 at 4:39 pm

1981-1991 Kansas City Comets


Kansas City CometsMajor Indoor Soccer League (1981-1990)
Major Soccer League (1990-1991)

Born: May 5, 1981 – The San Francisco Fog relocate to Kansas City.
Died: July 16, 1991 – The Comets cease operations.

Arena: Kemper Arena (15,800)

Team Colors: Fiery Orange & Strato Blue


MISL Championships: None


Imagine if some upstart sport – a junk sport as some of the old cranks in the sporting press would call it – went into an big city arena next fall and outdrew the local NBA team.  Not just outdrew the basketball club, but nearly doubled their average gate for each game and eventually drove them out of town.  It’s inconceivable that a sport like indoor lacrosse or arena football could blindside a city like this today, but this is exactly what happened in Kansas City in the early 1980’s with the arrival of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

The MISL was three years old when Dr. David Schoenstadt arrived in Kansas City in the summer of 1981.  Schoenstadt owned a sad sack two-year old franchise most recently known as the San Francisco Fog.  The club had already failed in Michigan (as the Detroit Lightning) and the Bay Area, lasting only a single winter in each city.  In Missouri, the Fog became the Kansas City Comets. They would split dates at the 16,000-seat Kemper Arena with the NBA’s Kansas City Kings.

Schoenstadt entrusted the management of the Comets to the young brothers Tracey and Tim Lieweke.  Tracey was President, Tim General Manager and a third brother, Tod, ran the Comets’ community relations programs.  The Liewekes promoted Comets games as all-around entertainment events, augmented by light shows, lasers and pyrotechnics.  These production values are taken for granted today by NBA and NHL fans, but in the early 1980’s they were innovations still percolating upwards from leagues like the MISL (and often decried by old guard sportswriters of the era).

Kansas City CometsDuring the 1981-82 season, the Comets drew an announced average of 11,508 to the Kemper Arena for 22 home dates.  This was 2nd best in the 12-team MISL and, more importantly, the Comets popularity dwarfed that of the Kansas City Kings, who averaged a paltry 6,644 fans that winter.  Former Comets season ticket holder Brian Holland writes frequently about the Comets on his blog Holland’s Comet and compares Comets/Kings attendance for the four winters that the NBA and MISL went head-to-head in Kansas City from 1981 to 1985.  It was no contest, with the Comets reaching their peak of popularity in their third season of 1983-84, averaging a near capacity 15,786 while selling out 15 of 24 home dates.  According to Holland, the Comets even outdrew the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs head-to-head during one weekend in December 1983.

By 1985, the Kansas City Kings season ticket base had eroded to just 3,200 seats.  In January, the Kings announced a relocation to Sacramento, California.  Their departure was attributed by some, including former Kings Head Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, to simply being out-marketed by the Comets:

“Here’s something that’s not even a game,” said Fitzsimmons, quoted in The Houston Chronicle in April 1985. “They make up the rules as they go along.  But they’ve marketed aggressively and they’ve taken Kansas City by storm.”

With the Kings gone, the Comets became the primary tenant at Kemper Arena for the first time in the winter of 1985-86 and gained a stranglehold on prime dates.  Ironically, the fortunes of the Comets and the Major Indoor Soccer League had already started to decline.  The Lieweke brothers left Kansas City in 1984 at the zenith of the team’s popularity.  Younger brother Tim returned for two seasons as team President from 1986 to 1988, but by then the MISL was in contraction mode, as were the turnstile figures for the Comets.  The league nearly folded in the summer of 1988 after four teams folded.

David Schoenstadt, the rumpled anesthesiologist who brought the Comets to Kansas City in 1981, sold the club to an unwieldy group of 23 local investors in September 1987.   By the dawn of the 1990’s, announced attendance fell to an average of 7,103 per match, a decline or more than 50% from the club’s Reagan-era heyday.  The Comets folded after ten seasons on July 1991.  The MISL followed the Comets into the dustbin of history exactly one  year later.


Kansas City Comets Memorabilia


Comets Video

1991 Booster Club Highlight Video


1981 TV feature on the marketing of the Kansas City Comets.



1987-88 MISL Rule Book & Schedule 



Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs


Written by AC

February 23rd, 2013 at 4:34 pm


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