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Can Russell Wilson’s money, popularity bring back the Sonics to Seattle? “That’s the plan”

Seahawks Russell Wilson on why he's investing in new Seattle arena, potentially NBA team

Russell Wilson says he is investing in the new Seattle arena effort in SoDo to "change history ... continue to unify the city."
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Russell Wilson says he is investing in the new Seattle arena effort in SoDo to "change history ... continue to unify the city."

RENTON What can Russell Wilson buy with his $87.6 million Seahawks contract?

Part of a new, half-billion arena in downtown Seattle -- plus part ownership of the team that would play in it.

The Seahawks’ franchise quarterback and Super Bowl champion sounded like he wanted to become even more of a civic hero than he already is on Thursday. He confirmed he is not only co-investing in Chris Hansen’s effort to build an arena in the Sodo section of Seattle just south of the Mariners’ Safeco Field, news that he broke online on Monday, but that he also would be a part-owner on a new Seattle NBA team if that arena gets built.

“That’s the plan,” Wilson said Thursday before practice for Sunday’s home game against Philadelphia at CenturyLink Field a couple blocks north of where the new basketball and hockey arena -- for a potential Seattle NHL team -- would be.

The quarterback that is setting roots in Seattle for the long haul said he wanted to “change history.”

“We got to find a way to get the Sonics here first,” Wilson said. “That's the first mission, is to build the arena. Obviously partnering with Chris Hansen is a pretty cool situation. He loves this area and all that, and also Wally Walker and also Eric and Pete Nordstrom. It's an exciting thing, an exciting time.

“Just walking around, seeing people, being with people, wearing old-school Sonics hats, old-school Sonics throwback jackets, it's a great city to have an NBA team. I think the same about the NHL. It's a great sport, as well.”

Yes, that’s how politician-like -- the good kind of politician -- the QB who has ownership stakes in Tacoma’s Recovery Water and Good Man Brand men’s clothing sounded in explaining his latest business venture: He threw a shout out to hockey, too.

Hansen wants to bring an NHL team to Seattle with an NBA one to play in the new arena he has offered to build without any public money.

“I think it changes the hearts and changes souls and brings people together, and there’s nothing better than that,” he said of professional sports in a metropolitan area. “I know from my own personal experience from being a professional athlete, but also being a great fan of great athletes and great individuals and organizations. It’s a no-branier to me why we should fight to bring and NBA team back here — an NHL team, too, as well.”

“It starts with the arena. It starts with getting the street vacation and doing all that work. It’ll be a quick process. It’ll be a state-of-the-art facility, that’s for sure. And that’s the exiting part. It will be one of a kind, and so it will be really, really special.”

Ah, the “street vacation” issue. Yes, Wilson waded a bit into that mess, too.

Hansen’s arena effort needs the city of Seattle to vacate Occidental Avenue, a two-lane side street that runs parallel to and one block east of main, 1st Avenue South through Sodo. So far, the local shipping interests have argued vacating the street would have debiliating effects on traffic to and from the nearby Port of Seattle and therefore on the Port’s entire shipping industry. Last spring the Seattle city council voted 5-4 against vacating the street for an arena.

Hansen’s group must now resubmit a new request to the city to vacate Occidental Avenue to build the arena on the land there Hansen owns.

Can you imagine what a scene it would be to have Wilson speak at a city-council hearing arguing for the merits of the street vacation?

“Like I tell you guys all the time, the street is 18 feet wide and 1,000 feet long...”

Asked if he’d lobby City Hall, Seattle’s mayor and its council members, Wilson said: “"Of course.

“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.

“So the key is the street vacation and getting that happening and we'll be ready to roll. So it's an exciting time.”

For those that have been wanting the Sonics to return since 2008 when they moved to Oklahoma City, Wilson joining the effort to make that happen is any exciting time, indeed.

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