The Wichita Wild may be going out on top.
Less than two weeks removed from the franchise’s second straight Champions Professional Indoor Football League championship, owner Wink Hartman is selling the team. Hartman, 68, said he lost $2 million over the Wild’s eight seasons.
Hartman attempted to sell the Wichita Wings soccer franchise after two seasons last May, but no buyers were found and the franchise folded. Hartman, who owns Hartman Oil and an Indy Car team along with several businesses, believes an ownership group for the Wild can be found.
The team is closing its doors on July 11 until new owners are secured.
“For about the last two or three years, we’ve worked very diligently trying to build an adequate fan base. We’ve tried very much to keep the professional sport in Wichita, but it finally comes to the amount of time and attention it takes, and our time can be spent on other assets.”
The Wild moved from the Indoor Football League to the CPIFL in 2013 and won the new league’s first two championships. The team oversaw a coaching change this season from Morris Lolar to Paco Martinez and new general manager Jeremy Mock guided an overhauled front office.
From an on-field standpoint, the Wild has probably never been more stable. Quarterback Rocky Hinds was named CPIFL MVP and most of the players were around for both championship seasons.
But with limited home games – the Wild played nine games at Hartman Arena this season including the playoffs – the financial situation for low-level professional sports is always tenuous.
“It’s a financial struggle every year, and it has been for eight years,” Hartman said. “With my age and all the responsibilities, maybe it’s time I should turn over the leadership to somebody else who can spend more time and devote to the Wild.”
Hartman said he and Hartman Oil vice president Morrie Sheets will aggressively pursue a new owner or ownership group with the goal of keeping the team at Hartman Arena. They haven’t spoken to any potential owners yet.
Hartman, who told Martinez, Mock and other Wild personnel of the decision on Tuesday, isn’t looking to recoup his lost money in a sale.
“Price is probably third or fourth on the list,” Hartman said. “The No. 1 thing I’m concerned about is that the Wild continue to play at Hartman Arena. That’s No. 1 on my list of importance. Price is not the deciding factor here. The deciding factor is that it continues to play in Wichita and that we have a solid ownership group that has the time to devote to the team.”