Over the weekend I had the opportunity to interview Kurt Hunzeker, former president of the St. Louis BattleHawks. I asked him things from the meaning of the eye emoji tweet to has St. Louis City SC tried to hire him yet. Here is my Q&A with Mr. Hunzeker.
Q: What did the eye emoji tweet mean?
KH: Officially, it means a lot of things; some behind-the-scenes and some very apparent. But it did prove what we were looking to prove: BattleHawks’ fans are awesome.
Q: How long do you think it will take to get a front office built if you’re tapped to lead the BattleHawks? (Asked by: @TShore34)
KH: While no one has contacted me about returning, I do very much believe a great number of former BattleHawks’ employees would return building the community-centric and fan-first brand we were still creating when everything vanished in April. Obviously, you would like to know what the new owners’ business strategy is, how St. Louis factors into that equation, etc., but there’s no mistaking the BattleHawks’ “Family” and their passion and proven successes from this past year.
We were days away from welcoming 50,000-plus to The Dome when the season suspended, and there’s a tremendous amount of unfinished business and fun stories yet to be authored with the St. Louis community. I hope St. Louis gets another, well-deserved chance to remind everyone what a great football town it is!
Q: Can you go into more detail about your bubble concept?
KH: It starts with three massive pluses:
1) guaranteed weather, or what we always called “Sunny and 72.” Removing/ neutralizing any variable from a complex problem is always a great move.
2) Downtown St. Louis has a wealth of hotel options to host teams. Or we could create “pods” like the XFL had in Houston for training camp (teams scattered throughout the metro area near their training locations). Pods could include Downtown (The Dome/SLU), Westport Plaza (UMSL), Clayton/CWE (Wash U), and St. Charles (Lindenwood).
3) The XFL’s roots were firmly planted in St. Louis in a short period of time. St. Louis football fans embraced not only the BattleHawks but the whole XFL: great TV ratings for all XFL games, massive merchandise sales, etc. Plus, we were drawing fans from throughout the Midwest/outside of Missouri and Illinois, including major college football areas like Iowa and Nebraska.
St. Louis loved the XFL, and showed it in so many ways. And while fans wouldn’t be inside The Dome for games, the buzz in and around St. Louis would be loud and clear the entire time.
Q: Can you also go into detail about “Archie B. Hawk”?
KH: Having just worked at Minor League Baseball for 4.5 years, I know the power of a mascot and how it can help build a team’s brand and drive revenue. With player movement expected from season to season, we needed a constant brand ambassador that would represent the team year after year.
At just about every grassroots event we attended and/or hosted, we asked fans and non-fans alike their thoughts on mascots, and specific ideas for a potential BattleHawks’ mascot.
The overwhelming response favored having a mascot (or two), and the unsolicited ideas for both designs (a bird, a pilot, a bird-as-a-pilot, etc.) and names were extremely helpful.
The name “Archie” kept coming up, as the Arch truly represented the bullseye of our “Four Quadrant” outreach strategy: Metro East Illinois, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and the Surrounding Missouri Counties.
My son designed his version of Archie, and added the “B. Hawk” and that just felt right.
While nothing was remotely close to being finalized let alone in development, we (the BattleHawks’ front office) targeted our 1st Birthday as the perfect time to unveil our mascot. That too just felt right: Archie joining his friends Fredbird and Louie. We could have had a lot of fun with that.
Q: Now that the XFL has been officially purchased, do you have a message for BattleHawks nation?
KH: Amplify the buzz around the BattleHawks and continue to show the new ownership group what a great, fun-loving, positive and phenomenal football town St. Louis is! Hopefully STL is in the league’s new plans, whatever they may be.
Oh, and KaKaw is Absolutely Law.
Q: With St. Louis City SC coming to town did they have any talks with you to hire you?
KH: No, but should they ever need any insights, ideas or metrics on how we built the BattleHawks’ brand with the St. Louis community, we are an open book and “friend of the program” like all of the other St. Louis sports teams.
While I’m bummed – like everyone else – that they aren’t playing until 2023, the extra time to prepare, engage the community and build something great is extremely valuable.
Co-authoring the BattleHawks’ brand with our fans, partners and community leaders was the best part of my time with the team. I really want to do that again.
Q: What has influenced your decision to stay in Saint Louis instead of moving out and going to say an NFL team?
KH: Two parts to this: one, my family was scheduled to join me in St. Louis after the 2019-2020 school year, but once the pandemic hit, and the XFL shut down/filed for bankruptcy, that put those plans on an indefinite hold, so I went back to them.
Secondly, a lack of opportunity. The sports job market – and really, most marketing-centric, business strategy, and/or revenue-generating roles that I would best qualify for – took a big hit, and a lot of amazingly talented executives lost their jobs and continue to be unemployed, like me.
I’m looking forward to whatever the next big adventure is for me and my family, wherever that may be.
Thank you Kurt Hunzeker for answering my questions!