Wichita Wingnuts

Wingnuts go 100-percent local

From the start two years ago, Steve Ruud wanted local ownership for the Wichita Wingnuts independent baseball team.

Today, Ruud happily announced reaching that goal at a news conference at Wichita Ice Sports. He recently purchased 55 percent of the team from Horn Chen, making Ruud, 64, the majority owner with 82 percent of the American Association franchise.

"The opportunity arose, and I jumped on it," Ruud said. "This gives us an opportunity to maybe give a little something back, and in turn have a lot of fun doing it."

Ruud is one of six local investors who joined with Chen in 2007 to bring the franchise to Wichita. Chen owns the Wichita Thunder hockey team, and the two teams share administrative staffs. Ruud said he expects to own around 60 percent of the team after Gary Austerman, Nick Easter, Steve Ruud, Dan Waller and Detroit Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson are given an opportunity to increase their share. Wingnuts general manager Josh Robertson said his brother wants to increase his stake from 3 percent to 12 to 25 percent.

Local ownership in minor-league sports is rare, Robertson said. He likes seeing his owners at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, where they can talk to fans. He likes knowing he can solve a problem with a phone call or a face-to-face meeting.

"They have a huge passion for the game of baseball," Robertson said. "They have a huge passion for the city of Wichita."

Robertson said the Wingnuts and Thunder will share staffs through the hockey season.