New owners committed to investing in struggling Tulsa Roughnecks

The short-lived Tulsa Roughnecks were one of the great stories of the old NASL.

The second attempt at the Roughnecks has been less successful, though brothers JW Craft, Ryan Craft and Kyle Craft want to change that.

In a deal finalized on July 31 and announced this week, the Crafts purchased the new Roughnecks, who are in their fifth season in the USL Championship.

Like many recent entrants in the USL, the Roughnecks piggybacked on a local minor league baseball operation. Jeff and Dale Hubbard, co-owners of the Tulsa Drillers Double-A team, were the majority owners of the Roughnecks, who play at ONEOK Field, the Drillers' downtown ballpark.

But of these USL startups, Tulsa has been perhaps the least successful on and off the field.

The Roughnecks have only made the playoffs once and were last out of 17 teams in the Western Conference in 2018. They are again 17th in 2019 -- this time out of 18 teams, ahead of only the Tacoma Defiance, the Seattle Sounders' second team that relies on a nucleus of academy-age players.

Tulsa averaged 4,714 fans a game in its first season. It barely topped 3,000 fans a game in 2018 and is below 2,500 a game this season.

"We are committed to significantly increasing the investment in this franchise," JW Craft said, "and to developing the Roughnecks into a team Tulsans can enjoy and be proud of for years to come.”

Interest in the old Roughnecks peaked in 1980 when they averaged 19,787 a game. They won the 1983 Soccer Bowl and were one of nine teams that played in the NASL's final season in 1984. They hung on through mid-July 1985, playing a independent schedule and attracting such players as U.S. internationals Winston DuBose, Darryl Gee and a young Roy Wegerle.

Soccer interest in Tulsa remains strong. The Tulsa market regularly ranked among the top U.S. 10 markets in terms of ratings and share for 2018 World Cup matches Fox Sports broadcast.

“Our first job will be listening to our fans and supporters, getting their feedback and suggestions,” added Ryan Craft. “Ultimately our focus is on building a successful professional soccer club that represents the Tulsa community in an authentic way, is a perennial playoff team, and a team that will compete for championships in both the USL and against MLS teams in the U.S. Open Cup.”

1 comment about "New owners committed to investing in struggling Tulsa Roughnecks".
  1. R2 Dad, August 22, 2019 at 11:22 a.m.

    I watched 2 minutes of the Tulsa/Los Dos match an am appalled at all the long balls. Might I suggest if Tulsa played soccer instead of kickball, maybe their attendance would improve? This isn't  1980..... 

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