Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson says he has been in talks to join the Sonics Arena group for more than a year.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said Thursday his decision to join the Seattle Arena Group is in keeping with a longtime dream of owning a professional sports franchise.
In his first public comments since it was revealed that Wilson will be a partner with Chris Hansen in the effort to bring NBA and NHL teams to Seattle, the Seahawks quarterback confirmed he will have a financial stake in the project.
“I will, for sure,” he said. “It’s going to be an exciting thing. I think it’s not just the financial part, too, but the passion behind it and the passion behind the people of the city and trying to bring people together.”
Wilson called joining the effort “a no-brainer” decision and something he has been considering for roughly a year but that general conversations with members of the Nordstrom family — who used to own the Seahawks and are still involved with the team — go back even longer.
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“I met Chris a few years ago and we were having a great conversation, we were talking, and I’ve told you guys I’ve been really authentic about wanting to own a team one day and being a part of something really special and doing that,” he said. “And even though I’m young, that I definitely have a business mindset and I want to be able to help people and give back and help change this community, continue to change this community for the better. That’s been the exciting part and Chris and I have connected on that. (Former Sonics general manager and part owner) Wally (Walker), too, as well. … It was really authentic and there was an approach to be able to dedicate and change history, really, and I think that’s a really cool special thing.
“. …I’ve always wanted to own a team and be a part of that, but really for the past year I’d say really kind of been processing it, thinking about it, really trying to understand and get information from the people of Seattle, how much do they really, how much are they really passionate about it.”
Asked if he approached the group about becoming an investor or if the group approached him Wilson said “it really was reciprocal, really. We talked about it. And Chris and Wally and those guys knew that I really wanted to be a part of owning a team one day. And obviously I can’t own a team until we have a team.”
Wilson, who last year signed a four-year, $87.6 million contract with the team that included $60 million guaranteed, wouldn’t say how much he has invested. But said he would do whatever lobbying the group asked.
“The first step was the arena part,” he said. “And that’s our focus right now. And then once we have an arena, then the goal is to obviously own a basketball team as part of it and have great people, great individuals, a great organization that helps change people’s lives, do great things in the community and hopefully win a lot of championships, too.”
Wilson said he will specifically help with the attempt to get Seattle City Council to reconsider approving a vacation of Occidental Street that was denied last spring. Hansen’s group is likely to submit a new request for the vacation sometime next year.
“I think it’s just trying to encourage people and let them understand, you know, how important it is and it will open up tons of jobs for people too as well. It’s going to be a state of the art facility and give people opportunity,” he said. “So the key is the street vacation and getting that happening and we’ll be ready to roll.”
Wilson said he had “no fear” about getting involved in a project that has generated and been politically divisive.
“I think it’s a good thing to talk about, obviously,” he said. “I think our focus is building a state-of-the-art facility that’s nowhere else. We want to do something that is really, really cool, really really special. That process has already kind of been done, it’s been a five-year process of doing that and obviously just to be able to do that will help change the game and will be really huge for the city, be really huge for the NHL, be really huge for the NBA. Like I said it doesn’t start until we have the street vacation but we’ve got to make that happen.’’
“. … I think that my focus and my personal experience is just that the passion you have from playing the sport, from being around sports. I know how much the Seattle Seahawks mean to the city. No matter what people want to say — good, bad, indifferent — from the good years to the bad years, everybody’s been dedicated to this football team. And sports just in general. Baseball, too, with the Mariners. We want to do that with the NBA. Why wouldn’t we? It’s such a great city. It’s a financially prospering city, a place where we can change people’s lives and give new jobs and help people around the city. It’s a great area, the SoDo area. It’s really, really special. Obviously you have the football stadium, CenturyLink, right there. You have the Mariners in Safeco right there too as well. And we want to bring a state of the art facility there too, an arena. So it’s exciting to me.”