While the Wyoming Mustangs’ record may not be perfect, the timing of the franchise’s inception has been.
Through its first four games of existence, the new profession indoor football team has sold 14,356 tickets, said owner Keith Russ. The Mustangs, who are playing their inaugural season as an expansion team in the Champions Indoor Football League (CIF), have given Gillette fans exactly what they’ve been craving for more than a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attending the games provides a sense of normalcy.
“It’s something to do,” said fan Jennifer Liston. “We needed something like this.”
Liston, like many other Gillette residents, has been to all four Mustangs home games so far. Her favorite part of indoor football has been how personal the experience is.
“You’re right there. You’re right in front of the action,” Liston said. “You’re not in a big stadium like in the NFL or college. We’ve just never had something like this before.”
Scot Allerdings sees the team’s impact on the crowd like no one else in the Wyoming Center at Cam-plex. A physical education teacher at Thunder Basin High School by day, Allerdings is a performer during breaks in action.
“I think it’s just good to bring Gillette back together again,” Allerdings said. “With everything how it’s been and everything being shut down, people are just ready to get out and be a part of the community and be involved.
“They just want to be back out and get back to normal.”
While sports fans in Gillette have grown accustomed to seeing a lot of winning through Campbell County High School and the newly established TBHS, wins and losses aren’t the main draw for a team like the Mustangs. The fast-paced game of arena football is as much a show than it is a game, Allerdings said.
“It’s great entertainment,” Allerdings said. “It’s great entertainment and Gillette needed something like this. ...Gillette’s always been a football town, so it’s really helped out.”
Brad Gregorich was able to enjoy his first Mustangs game this past weekend when the team hosted the Kansas-based Salina Liberty. But Gregorich didn’t go to the game alone.
As the principal of Hillcrest Elementary School, Gregorich was a chaperone for 30 students who were able to attend the game this weekend. The team gave the school 30 free tickets, he said.
“I think after the last year we’ve had people who are real excited to experience something like this,” Gregorich said. “It’s just a really fun environment. ... It’s an exciting product.”
While Gregorich enjoyed the show this weekend, he said it was a memory the kids will hold onto for a very long time.
“They loved it,” Gregorich said. “It was a pretty unique experience for a lot of them. Even if they’ve been to a lot of different sporting events, they’ve never been to something quite like this.”
The primary focus for the Mustangs players is always winning. But players like star running back Jeff Carr won’t hesitate to give out high-fives or sign some autographs when there’s time to spare.
“The fans always make it more fun. We don’t want to come play in front of nobody,” Carr said. “I’ve never did this before, but even when we lost today they’re happy, so it’s just a great fan base.”
The Mustangs lost to Salina 63-32 to drop to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in CIF league games. The team will now travel for the first time this season to play the Dodge City Law in Kansas at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Mustangs next home game will come after a bye the following week. Wyoming will host the Omaha Beef at 7 p.m. May 8.