Kansas City group buys Wizards, seeks new stadium
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lamar Hunt, an original MLS owner and investor, sold the Kansas City Wizards on Thursday to a group of six investors.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Hunt, 74, initially announced his intention to sell the Wizards in 2004, but only to buyers interested in keeping the team in the Kansas City area. He found that in Ongoal LLC, a local entity headed by Cerner Corporation co-founders Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig.
"We are especially pleased to have been able to consummate this transaction with the end result that the Wizards will remain in the Kansas City metropolitan area," Hunt said. "We had numerous inquiries from potential investors who wanted to move the team to other communities.
"Fortunately, the leadership of OnGoal have a passion for the heart of America and I am convinced that they will achieve the much-needed soccer-specific stadium for the area and contribute to the long-range success of MLS."
Hunt and his family have been investors and operators in MLS since its inception in 1996. He still owns the Columbus Crew and Dallas Burn and has had soccer-specific facilities built for both clubs.
No concrete plan is in place for a soccer-only stadium for the Wizards. However, according to a report on the web site of the Kansas City Star, a $75 million bond question -- believed to be part of a larger development plan that includes a stadium -- will be placed on the ballot in November by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District board.
The newspaper's web site also reported that the new ownership group has identified a site in south Overland Park as its preferred location for a stadium.
Ongoal LLC also includes Pat Curran, David French, Greg Maday and Robb Heineman and will take over operation of the Wizards on Friday. All current employees will continue with the organization.
Cerner is the top supplier of healthcare information technology in the United States with nearly $1.5 billion in annual revenue. Patterson is the chairman and CEO and Illig is vice chairman. Heineman's family owns the Sioux Falls SkyForce of the NBA's D-League.
"We are delighted that Cliff and Neal and the other members of OnGoal have been added to the ownership group of MLS," Hunt said. "They bring the total different ownership groups to nine for the 13 MLS teams.
"The addition of committed, financially able partners further strengthens the league. The Hunts have continuing financial involvement in MLS in Columbus and Dallas, and we welcome the addition of the new MLS partners in Kansas City."
The Wizards won the MLS Cup in 2000 and lost in the league title game to Washington in 2004. They are 8-12-6 this season and trying to hold off the New York Red Bulls for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with six games remaining.
Hunt is best known for founding the American Football League in 1960. After a decade of battling the NFL for players, TV contracts and attention, the AFL merged with the NFL to create what has become the most popular sports league in America.