It’s hard to imagine Russell Wilson becoming vastly more popular in Seattle than he already is, but that could happen if his latest venture is successful. The Seahawks quarterback announced Monday that he has joined an investment group that is trying to bring an NBA and/or NHL team to his adopted city.
Wilson is partnering with a billionaire hedge fund manager, Chris Hansen, whose group also includes Peter and Erik Nordstrom, as well as Wally Walker, a former executive with the SuperSonics. That team served as the NBA’s Seattle-based franchise from its inception in 1967 until 2008, when it was moved to Oklahoma City and renamed the Thunder.
“I’m blessed and excited to partner with Chris, Wally, Pete and Erik, and the greatest fans in all of sports to bring the SODO [district] arena to our beloved city; there is no place like the Emerald City,” Wilson said in a statement. “The positive impact sports has on our kids and many generations to come, and bringing different cultures and people together is what motivates and inspires me.”
“We couldn’t be more thrilled that Russell is joining our partnership and continued efforts to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle,” Hansen said in a statement. “As you are all aware, we have always kept our focus on doing this for the right reasons — our love for our city, our love of basketball, and our belief that pro-sports has the ability to positively influence our youth and bring communities together in a way very few things in this world can.”
Hansen’s group recently submitted a proposal to build a new arena in downtown Seattle with private funds. That would get around a municipal memorandum of understanding that required the group to have an NBA team lined up for Seattle, either through relocation or expansion, by November 2017 to receive public funds.
A privately financed arena could also give Hansen’s group time to wait for a possible NHL expansion into his city. There’s a good possibility that will happen, given that the league is expanding into Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season and may well desire another team in the West.
The proposed arena would be situated near to Seattle’s football and baseball stadiums, and it would require the city to give up part of an existing street. The project has been opposed by the Port of Seattle and a maritime union, which argue that it would threaten many waterfront-based jobs.
Seattle also plans to issue requests for bids on renovating 54-year-old KeyArena, which hosted the Sonics and currently is used by the WNBA’s Storm, as well as other professional teams. According to the Seattle Times, a pair of “highly regarded arena management companies — AEG and Oak View Group — have said they plan to offer renovation bids.”
“I think he’s interested, he loves the community and he’s interested in being a part of something that is really special here, and we are all aware of how dear it is to the hearts of the people around here,’’ Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson (via the Seattle Times). “Russell would love to be a part of something like that.’’
Wilson has previously expressed his eagerness to see the NBA return to Seattle. “The stadium would sell out every game!” he tweeted in May.