BLOOMINGTON — As they walked along West Front Street past Grossinger Motors Arena during Monday's Labor Day Parade, defenseman Brady Smith and other team representatives peeled off their old Bloomington Thunder jerseys.
In doing so, they revealed the new look for the rebranded Central Illinois Flying Aces: red and white jerseys with navy blue accents and a primary crest logo featuring a shark-toothed fighter plane.
“We wanted to make this reveal as memorable of a moment as possible because it really signified the start of our new chapter as the Flying Aces,” said Brendan Kelly, the team’s chief operating officer. “To be able to do this in Bloomington at such a big event for the city is really symbolic of how we want our identity to become an integral part of the community — both here and throughout Central Illinois.”
While the fourth-year USHL club adopted its new moniker on Aug. 24, the organization’s visual identity had remained under wraps. The parade offered an opportunity to showcase the new designs.
“This was such an awesome experience to be in front of so many people and let them all be part of this,” said first-year head coach Mike Watt. “This community has become very special to me since I moved here two years ago with my wife Niki and our two kids. It’s our home and this team’s home, and I don’t think there was a better way to show that we’re committed to being here than this.”
Among those joining Watt and Smith, a Bloomington native, for the unveiling were assistant coach Andy Contois, other staff members and Watt’s daughter Avery. The Thunder jerseys they removed were given to fans along the parade route.
While the navy blue serves as a holdover from the Thunder scheme, the team opted for a more traditional, vintage look with the jerseys — one mostly red and one white with red shoulders. Both feature the same white, red, light blue and navy piping on the sleeves.
“We knew we wanted to have red as our primary color because of the special significance it holds in the area and the qualities of power and speed that it evokes,” Kelly said. “Between that, the logo and name, we feel that our new identity really embodies the talent of the rising stars we have playing for us.”
The team is set to open camp later this week with more than 40 players vying for spots on the 23-man roster, including 10 returnees from last year’s team. The first preseason game is scheduled for Sept. 15 at home against Chicago.
The Flying Aces will then make their regular-season debut Oct. 7 at Youngstown ahead of their Oct. 13 home opener against Cedar Rapids. New ticket plans, a promotional schedule and other upcoming changes are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.