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  • Greg Jones | The Journal Gazette Dan Kruse, 63, has been a Fort Wayne Sport Club member since 2003 and its president since 2006. “I love the people out here,” said Kruse, standing in front of the clubhouse, built by members in 1966-67.

  • Courtesy Members take a break in 1966 while constructing the clubhouse. Ninety years after its birth, the club still embraces its German heritage and tradition.

  • Courtesy A program announced the dedication of the new clubhouse in October 1934.

  • Courtesy Fort Wayne Sport Club members gather with a team from Indianapolis for a 1927 all-star match. Today, the club’s youth program has 2,000 players on 40 travel teams, along with player development groups and rec leagues.

Sunday, April 30, 2017 1:00 am

'Danke' for the memories

Sport Club rich in German tradition going strong at 90

GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette

Celebration

What: Community Festival to celebrate 90th anniversary

When: 11 a.m.-midnight May 13

Where: Fort Wayne Sport Club

Admission: Free

German heritage and tradition are still very important to the Fort Wayne Sport Club.

Signs and phrases adorn the walls of the clubhouse and even the songs at the close of the club's monthly meetings are sung in German (even though some have English translations available). 

“It keeps up with the overall tradition of the club,” club president Dan Kruse, 63, said.

Along with soccer, the club on the southwest side of the city also embraces the heritage of the founders who gave life to the club 90 years ago. So the festivities over two Saturdays in May – the 6th and the 13th – will have a heavy German feel, along with a celebration of the past and present members who helped the club grow.

And it all traces back to the roots of the venerable soccer facility.

“There were industrial leagues back in the '20s … and all of the immigrants that came over from other countries all played soccer, and they formed soccer leagues,” Kruse said. “They were all German immigrants, and they needed a place of camaraderie and a home where they could come.”

The club was formed on March 18, 1927, as soccer players/immigrants came to Fort Wayne to work at places such as General Electric, the Pennsylvania Railroad and International Harvester. They also wanted to play some soccer and found places around the city to get together and play before a few of them got together and purchased four acres of land on Hayden Road (which later became Ardmore Avenue) in 1931.

The first clubhouse was built in 1931, while a dance hall/kitchen was added three years later. When the addition was completed, a speech was read by Fort Wayne Mayor William Hosey. Another speech was read by club member William Fruechte­nicht – in German. 

In 1966-67, the current clubhouse was constructed by club members. In the early 2000s, more fields and a press box were donated and there are 16 more acres being purchased on contract for the non-profit youth soccer portion of the complex.

Kruse, pretty much the historian of the Fort Wayne Sport Club even though he has been a member only since 2003 and president since 2006, said he even found some monthly minutes from years ago, and they were written in German.

The 120-plus membership doesn't have nearly as many first-generation Germans as it once did, but that doesn't stop those members – young and old – from embracing what the club meant to the founders or those who have followed as members. 

The club counts as members someone from every continent, except Australia and Antarctica. There are only about 30 active members, as most of them are retired and scattered to warmer locales. 

The annual Stiftungsfest, a founders day celebration, will be Saturday to remember those club members who have died and honor those who have been members for 25 and 50 years. Kruse said the festival is usually pretty short, but will be longer this year as a video was done to honor the 90th anniversary. 

On May 13, there is a long list of activities that are scheduled to run from 11 a.m. until midnight. There are activities, games, food, drink and entertainment scheduled for all ages, and some even included parents and children competing together. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry is also scheduled to attend and give a speech (more than likely in English).

The club has included several outstanding and undefeated teams playing in leagues around the state, eight club members are in the Indiana Soccer Hall of Fame, which is believed to be the most of any soccer club in the state, and three generations of the Deittrich family have played at the club. Hans Deittrich, 78, still is active in the club and on the soccer field.

The youth program has 2,000 players on 40 travel teams, along with player development groups and rec leagues. The adult leagues are also going strong, with an over-50 team added this year, with an over-40 team in the works. 

The Fort Wayne Sport Club is one of four clubs which help put on the city's annual German Fest, with the FWSC the makers of the German potato salad served at the festival of German heritage and food.

“I love the people out here,” said Kruse, a commercial and industrial real estate agent by trade. “There are some incredible people. It is one of the things my wife says to me, 'you got done playing at 8, how come you didn't get home until 11?' It's because I go from table to table talking to people I know.

“I love the sport, and it keeps me healthy.”

gjones@jg.net