INVOICES If you succeed at first, why not try again?
That’s apparently the thinking of Billings futsal supporters, who voted in a runaway to christen the city’s new Champions Indoor Football team the Outlaws, a nostalgic nod to the franchise that built a loyal following as a three-time champion of several indoor league games. iterations from 2000-10.
In a public contest sponsored by The Billings Gazette and EconoPrint, nearly 400 names were submitted, according to Tommy Benizio, a consultant whose Dallas-based Benizio Sports company has helped facilitate the return of indoor soccer to Billings.
Outlaws was a clear winner, said Benizio, who was in town on Wednesday watching a Mustangs baseball game with Outlaws co-owner Keith Rust. I really feel the community chose this name. All I hear is stories of family memories and positive experiences people had with the Billings Outlaws ten years ago.
Said Rust: I’m happy with the name Outlaws. That was the name I wanted. From what I saw, that was probably the best.
Benezio said he could only remember one of the other three finalists: The Magicians. I thought that was pretty cool, he said.
But Outlaws is synonymous with successful futsal in The Magic City.
The team won playoffs in eight of its 11 seasons, winning titles in 2006 and then in 2009 in front of more than 8,000 spectators at MetraPark, now First Interstate Arena. They also won a sold-out Sports Plex a year later after a tornado tore the roof off the Metra.
However, the tornado turned out to be contributing to the Outlaws’ downfall, and the team folded after the season. Aside from a two-year stint with the Billings Wolves in 2015-16, Billings has been without futsal ever since.
I know quite a bit about the Outlaws from when they were here, said Rust, who also co-owns the CIF’s Gillette Mustangs and spends most of his time between Wyoming and western South Dakota. They had a pretty good run.
Rusts Gillette’s team went 4-8 in his first season, but the Mustangs were not short of enthusiasm in northeastern Wyoming. The teams’ first five games sold out, he said, and the team won two awards for the best fans in the league.
It was fantastic, Rust said.
He said Gillette’s template will also be imprinted in Billings. That includes extensive involvement from the team’s community, especially players connecting with fans.
The Mustangs, Rust said, require players to be on the field for 15 minutes after each game to mingle with the crowd. The Outlaws will do the same.
We were in the community every day, he said. We arrived where everyone knew us.
Since announcing the return of indoor soccer to Billings in April, Rust said the team has hired a general manager and a sales staff. He said he and Pick-Six Entertainment co-owner Tel Koen expect to hire a head coach in September.
We have so many resumes to go through, he said. When we announced a coaching search, we were showered with resumes.
Rust said they will be looking for a coach who is really fan oriented, really community oriented, someone who has the players in the community, really approachable to fans. Just a real character man with as much experience as they can bring.
The Outlaws are also looking for a dance team. Operations staff will be hired closer to the start of the season in March, Rust said.
In 2021, Champions Indoor Football had active teams in Salina, Wichita and Dodge City, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; and Gillette. Omaha won the league title 40-39 on July 17 over Salina, which is led by former Outlaws coach Heron ONeal. Two teams from Texas and one from Oklahoma were inactive; another expansion team from Denver gives the league 10 active teams for 2022.
Looking ahead, Rust is aware that loyalties are divided the first time Billings and Gillette meet next year during their 12-game season.
Right, he said. I probably wouldn’t root for either team. I hope it ends in a draw.
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