Update: Tuesday, August 9, 2011
The Wichita Thunder has been purchased by local Wichita businessmen Brandon, Johnny and Rodney Steven. The announcement was made during a news conference at the Intrust Bank Arena at 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
The announcement was made from INTRUST Bank Arena inside the Cox Lounge, overlooking the facility's expansive 15,000 seat venue where the team has been playing since January 2010. "We're now playing at one of the nicest arenas, with Kevin McClelland who is a first class coach," said Rodney Steven II. "My brothers and I are ready to pull all of our business experience to work, to give this team all the tools it needs to be the best they can be and to keep this team here in Wichita."
In a news release from the Wichita Thunder, Steven noted that "through the new partnership and the support Wichita gives the team, getting back to eventually winning championships will be the goal." In its heyday, the Wichita Thunder played to sell-out crowds at the Kansas Coliseum.
The Steven family owns a number of successful businesses in Wichita, including Spangles, Genesis Health Clubs, Reddi Industries and Eddy's Toyota. Rodney Steven also now holds a contract to operate the Wichita Ice Sports Center in which the Thunder uses as their practice facility.
The Wichita Thunder have called a 1 p.m. news conference to "address the future of the organization."
On Monday, multiple sources told KAKE's Jared Cerullo that the team was to be purchased by local Wichita businessmen Brandon, Johnny and Rodney Steven.
KAKE News will be at the news conference and will update this story as more details become available.
The Steven family owns a number of successful businesses in Wichita, including Spangles, Genesis Health Clubs, Reddi Industries and Eddy's Toyota. Rodney Steven also holds a contract to operate the Wichita Ice Sports Center, which the Thunder uses as their practice and office facility.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Sources close to the negotiations are telling KAKE News two prominent Wichita businessmen are attempting to purchase the Wichita Thunder hockey team.
The team is currently owned by Chicago-based sports businessman Horn Chen. Chen has also owned the Central Hockey League, for which the Thunder plays. Chen has also owned a number of other minor league sports teams across the country and sold them off.
"It would be better if it was locally owned," said Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission President Bob Hanson.
Chen has owned the Wichita Thunder since they started playing hockey at the Kansas Coliseum. The upcoming season would be their 20th. Since moving to the new Intrust Bank Arena early last year, however, attendance at the games has not increased. In fact, sometimes fewer than 2,000 people filled the stands.
"I knew that there was some interest maybe of a sale," Hanson said. "Finding some buyers that would be interested in keeping it local would be the best option, in my opinion."
A source close to the negotiations tells KAKE News that a sale might be imminent, but the Thunder front office has not returned our calls for comment.
"I think it could be very good for Wichita if we could find some local owners," Hanson said. "I think it's been good for the Wingnuts and I know that there may be some people that may be interested in the Thunder."
Hanson declined to comment on who he felt might be interested,
The team went into the new arena on hard times, but is optimistic that there will be progress since naming new head coach Kevin McClelland.
"They've showed great progress in the last year or so with a new coach," Hanson explained. "They had the worst possible scenario with the worst team they ever had moving into Intrust Bank Arena, but with a new coach last year, they made great strides."
The team will be competing against the Wichita Wingnuts baseball team, which plays at Lawrence Dumont Stadium, as well as the newly reformed Wichita Wings Soccer team that will play at Hartman Arena in Park City beginning in November.
"Whoever can come up with the best program, the best type of team and the best marketing plan is the one that will probably be successful," Hanson said.
All sources say there has been no paperwork signed, but one hint to the possible buyer is that Genesis Health Clubs owner Rodney Steven recently negotiated a contract with the City of Wichita to run the Wichita Ice Sports Center. The Thunder currently uses that building as their practice facility. Steven has also announced plans to add a health facility at the ice center.