Chris Hansen continued a flirtation with the NHL, while making good on a promise to bring basketball to Seattle.
However, it’s not the brand of hoops Sonics fans were expecting.
The multimillionaire investor who attempted to purchase the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle donated the use of a Sodo warehouse to the A Plus Youth Program, a nonprofit organization that benefits children through athletics and academics. The building is part of a development intended for Hansen’s proposed arena.
“We don’t have an NBA team that will play here next season, so we have a little extra space down in Sodo,” Hansen said Wednesday morning. “We couldn’t think of a better way to put it to use than to welcome … A Plus to its new location at Occidental and Massachusetts.”
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It’s been nearly a year since the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 22-8 to deny Hansen’s attempt to buy 65 percent of the Kings for $625 million.
He’s still committed in his pursuit of an NBA team, even though new commissioner Adam Silver said returning to Seattle isn’t a high priority for the league.
“Does anybody really think that Seattle is not going to have an NBA team at some point in the future?” Hansen said. “I think everybody can get really impatient when things don’t happen on their own agenda.
“It’s inevitable Seattle will have a basketball team. It’s just a question of when. Our job is to get the arena through the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) process and done and evaluate opportunities as they come up. The next time an opportunity comes our way, we’re going to be in a lot better position.”
Hansen expects the EIS, which is considered the last major hurdle for the $490 million proposed arena, will be completed this summer.
Hansen said his original investment team – Steve Ballmer, Peter and Erik Nordstrom and Wally Walker – is still intact, passionate about basketball and intrigued by the NHL.
“I don’t dislike hockey,” Hansen said. “It’s not that. I actually watch playoff hockey. I think watching hockey in person is an incredible live-action sport. Until you’ve seen it in person, it’s a lot different. But that doesn’t mean that I’m passionate enough about it to take this on as a real responsibility.”
Hansen is unwilling to be a majority owner of an NHL team, but he’d consider purchasing a small stake.
He acknowledged it would be a risk for the NHL to place a team in Seattle and play temporarily at KeyArena because his arena-funding deal stipulates construction will not begin and the city will not contribute $200 million until an NBA team is secured.
“If we were unsuccessful after a number of years getting a new franchise – if it took 3-4-5 years – and the hockey owner did a good job in the city, at that point the city might be amenable and the county might be amenable to considering getting the arena started,” Hansen said. “It’s very important for hockey to play in a new arena.”
Hansen’s donation to the A Plus Youth Program capped a breakfast fundraiser at the downtown Four Seasons hotel that included emotional testimonies from Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and 2012 Olympic high-jump silver medalist Brigetta Barrett.
“In a city like Compton and the CD (Central District) and a lot of these inner-city kids, they feel like they’re in a cement and steel box that you can’t get out of,” Sherman said. “Of drugs, crime, violence and despair. In order to get out of the box, you have to find hope. And the A Plus program brings hope.”
The five-year-old organization needed a new home because its old site, Zion Preparatory Academy, is no longer available. Tavio Hobson, A Plus founder and executive director, said the Sodo facility isn’t ideal because its capacity is 40-45 while the program serves 180 children. Not all of the 14 full-time staff members will be located downtown.
“Being able to be in that space will give us some runway while we come up with a permanent solution,” Hobson said. “It’s one of the most creative donations we’ve ever received.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278