AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Stephanie Tucker remembers when she first told her father about her idea to bring indoor arena soccer to Amarillo.
“I told him, I said, ‘We’re bringing in arena soccer, am I crazy?’" laughed Tucker. "And he’s like, ‘Yes, I think you are.’”
After eight years of owning the Amarillo Venom, Tucker wanted to add another sport to her arsenal.
“We’re thinking hey, this is the fastest growing sport in the world," she explained. “And if you’ve ever been to an arena soccer game, it’s the high intensity of arena football, and rugby-and I just loved it, I fell in love with it.”
Last year, a trip to Kansas City for Venom meeting turned into a stop at a Kansas City Comets arena soccer game. Before the game was over, she had already texted her husband, Toby, and her friend, orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Parker, with her plan.
“I sent out a text to both of them saying, ‘Hey, here we go, guess what?’” she recalled. “'Y’all are the new owners of the US Arena Professional Soccer League,’ and they’re like, ‘Of course we are.’”
One year later, she doesn’t look so crazy. With teams in Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Lubbock, and Midland-Odessa, the league is almost through its first season, and the Amarillo Bombers are in first.
“When we play at home, and we score a goal, it’s like this huge celebration," said head coach Chad Webb. “It actually is really cool, especially when my guys have learned to kind of engage with the fans a little bit.”
Engaging with the fans is crucial to the league’s success.
“If we don’t make it about the fans, then people are not going to come out. So if you want to have the opportunity to know the players, and be involved in the players, come after the game and celebrate the win with the players. It’s all about those kids," expressed Tucker.
This weekend, they even started a youth league with Bombers players as coaches.
“I think that that might be the key to gaining more community awareness about what we’re doing," hoped Webb. "Because my guys are actually on the field with younger soccer players.”
Expanding the fan base is one thing, but adding broadcasts, stats, and accessibility to fans outside the arena is another goal for next season.
“In the off-season we know what we want, what some of the fans want, we’ll see what some of our coaches and players want, so we’ll be able to continue and make it a more professional setting, for not just the players, but for the fans too," said Tucker.
There’s a big future ahead for the league, but for now, the Bombers are focusing on finishing the season strong.
“What I see on the field keeps getting better, you know, specifically with my group, these guys are extremely talented,” said Webb.
The Bombers remain undefeated going into the final weeks of the season.