Archive for Kokomo Mantis FC


Kokomo Mantis 2


KOKOMO, Ind. – The Kokomo soccer community was excited when the ownership group of the Kokomo Jackrabbits announced that it would add a soccer squad to its stable and play games in Kokomo Municipal Stadium in 2016. But after a mixed-results first year, ROC Ventures announced the Kokomo Mantis FC would take a year off from competition to reorganize and move to a new league.

“While we put the 2017 season on hold, I am happy to announce that all other aspects of the Kokomo Mantis FC will continue as preparation for 2018,” said ROC Ventures, Sports and Performance President Dan Kuenzi. “We are currently in talks with the NPSL (National Premier Soccer League) about the 2018 season at Municipal Stadium.”

The Mantis played in the Premier Development League’s Heartland Division last year, finishing 4-6-4 with quality wins over PDL powers Des Moines Menace and Chicago Fire United. But the PDL schedule proved challenging – after two home matches on May 20 and 23, the squad did not return home until mid-June, losing a lot of momentum to develop a fan-base. Then, the Mantis played three games over the Fourth of July holiday weekend when many fans were out-of-town.

Add in a long two-game, 2,200-mile round-trip through Canada and the Mantis schedule become a scheduling and financial issue.

Fortunately for soccer fans, Kuenzi said ROC Ventures is dedicated to keeping the most popular sport in the world in Kokomo and will reorganize into a different league. The group is in talks to move to the National Premier Soccer League, with plans for the Mantis to take the turf pitch in 2018 after a PDL-mandated one-year non-compete clause is complete.

For more on this story, see the Feb. 14 edition of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana


IMG_20160130_151410161 Kokomo Municipal Stadium Final Logo


KOKOMO, Ind. – MKE Sports and Entertainment, the ownership group of the Kokomo Jackrabbits and Kokomo Mantis FC, have banned peanuts at Municipal Stadium and the other facilities it operates. Many fans visiting the award-winning stadium have questioned the reasoning behind the ban, with many assuming it was because of the mess left behind by peanut shells.

But that is not the case – team representatives said the ban is in place because the son of MKE Sports CEO Mike Zimmerman suffers from a dangerous peanut allergy. Zimmerman’s wife, Bridget, explained how dangerous a peanut allergy can be.

“The reason we decided to make Kokomo Municipal Stadium peanut free is because our son, Andrew, has a severe peanut allergy,” she said. “He went to one Major League Baseball game and had to be carried out because the dust from the peanut shells caused hives and his eyes to swell shut.”

She said because of that, her son has to be careful where he travels – which means he can no longer attend MLB games.

“After that, we didn’t feel comfortable taking him to any other games,” said Zimmerman. “With the increase of food allergies and peanut allergies being the most common and most severe, we wanted to provide a place for kids like Andrew to feel safe while watching baseball.”

Kokomo High School catcher Cory Shrock also has a severe peanut allergy (see Sports Journal online story).

While peanuts may be a staple of baseball, Zimmerman hopes fans understand why they will not be served at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.


Kokomo Mantis 2


KOKOMO, Ind. – When the Kokomo Jackrabbits arrived in the City of Firsts last summer, one of the biggest obstacles was housing the players. Host families were needed to provide a place to stay for the college players during the 60-game summer schedule. Thanks to Crystal Sanburn, host family coordinator for the Rabbits and operations manager for Municipal Stadium, the program was a success and all players were cared for.

“We had a fantastic response for the Jackrabbits last year,” said Sanburn. “It was much easier to find homes this year because so many came back.”

Now in its second year of operation, the Jackrabbits will once again need host families for its players. But first, Sanburn has a more pressing need – she is also in charge of finding homes for the newest sports team to call the stadium home – the Kokomo Mantis FC soccer team of the Premier Development League. The Mantis, owned by MKE Sports & Entertainment – which also owns the Jackrabbits – will launch its inaugural season in mid-May, slightly before the baseball season.

“With two teams, we need that many more host families, but I know Kokomo is a caring community and we will find enough,” said Sanburn. “What people need to know is that these are high-quality kids from around the United States – and maybe internationally – who are mainly collegiate students.”

Sanburn said she is hopeful the large soccer community will embrace the Mantis players much like the baseball community did for the Jackrabbits players last summer. The soccer squad will consist of 18-24 collegiate-aged players. Host families can host multiple players, and she stressed that the team is on the road for half the season, so they will not be in the home every night. The soccer season is also shorter than the baseball season, and will be over by mid-July.

“There are only seven home games, and since PDL games are further away, travel times are longer than in baseball,” explained Sanburn. “The kids will be gone more than they are with the Jackrabbits. It is just a great opportunity to see someone play and try and get to the next level.”

An added incentive is host families will receive tickets to each home game for all occupants of the home and a 25 percent discount on Mantis merchandise.

“It is just another cool thing for the city to be part of,” said Sanburn. “Soccer has grown so much in Kokomo. With the Kokomo Soccer Club and other clubs; what a huge opportunity for our kids to watch Mantis players.”

The top developmental men’s league in North America, the PDL features 73 teams within four conferences across the United States and Canada. The PDL season consists of 14 regular season matches for each team and provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility. In addition to league play, PDL teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various exhibitions. The PDL has proven to be an important stepping-stone for top professionals now playing throughout the world.

Kokomo will compete in the Central Conference. The Mantis will play in the Heartland Division with teams from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and a pair of teams from Canada: Manitoba and Ontario. The Great Lakes Division includes teams from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario. PDL teams are located in 31 states and Canada.

For more information on hosting a Mantis player, contact Sanburn at (317) 694-0837 or