A big basketball fan, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson apparently is putting a little money where his heart is, joining Chris Hansen’s group that is attempting to build an arena in Sodo that could return the NBA to Seattle.
Hansen’s group released a statement Monday about Wilson’s participation as a partner in the project, which had been stalled since May after the Seattle City Council voted to reject his request for a street vacation at the site.
In a letter to the council and Mayor Ed Murray three weeks ago, Hansen and partners Wally Walker and brothers Erik and Pete Nordstrom said they would drop their controversial bid to seek up to $200 million in public funds to help pay for arena construction. They committed to do the project privately, in exchange for some tax breaks.
“I’m blessed and excited to partner with Chris, Wally, Erik, Pete and the greatest fans in all of sports to bring the Sodo arena to our beloved city,” Wilson said in a statement. “There is no place like the Emerald City. 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.”
In the same statement, Hansen said:
“We couldn’t be more thrilled that Russell is joining our partnership and continued efforts to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. 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 hockey, 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.
“It is with this shared view that we welcome Russell, a young, smart and passionate entrepreneur, as our business partner. We know that his enthusiasm, positivity and never give up attitude will make a huge difference in our effort.”
No explanation was offered on how much Wilson will participate financially or in other ways. Asked by KING5 whether Wilson was expected to campaign at City Hall to get the project done, a source close to the partnership replied, “He is prepared to do that.”
The Hansen group is looking for some profile to re-generate public momentum for the project, particularly in view of Murray’s public pursuit of an old idea come to life again — a remodel of KeyArena that could accommodate pro basketball and hockey.
Two private investor groups have expressed interest, and a report in 2015 by a consulting firm paid for by the city council backed the idea. But the report discussed only the viability of the physical remodel, and did not explore issues of traffic, parking and suitability for the lower Queen Anne area that has increased its population density since the Sonics departure in 2008.
Hansen looked at the Key when he began exploring options in 2011 but said repeatedly that the Key, situated in what amounts to a public park, Seattle Center, will not work economically or logistically for pro sports. No other NBA arena is on public land.
The city OK’d issuance of the request for proposals with Hansen, who is the city’s partner in a memorandum of understanding about the Sodo project that is valid until November 2017. The city wants to know what’s possible with the Key before considering whether to indulge a fresh proposal from Hansen that would still include the need for a street vacation.
None among the mayor’s office, the council or the developers have said how such a project would be funded.