Russell Wilson has always been a sports fan, but it was when the Seahawks celebrated their Super Bowl XLVIII victory with a parade through downtown Seattle that it really hit home for the quarterback just how unifying sports can be for a city and a region.
And that, as well as the desire to someday own a sports franchise, explains why in the middle of football season, Wilson announced earlier this week his plans to partner with the Chris Hansen-led Sonics Arena Group that is trying to build an arena in SoDo to host and NBA and NHL teams.
"I just remember seeing all the people, seeing a million-something people out in the city and seeing how many black, white, Asian, different people, different socioeconomic statuses coming together for one cause and one great experience," Wilson said. "I think basketball does that."
Wilson grew up something of a Sonics fan thanks to the old NBA Jam video game, but living here for more than four years, he has really started to understand how much the Sonics meant to the city.
"Being a part of the city and just walking around and being around people and seeing people wearing their old-school Sonics hats and old-school throwback Sonics jackets, and just seeing the people, it's a great city to have an NBA team, and also the NHL," he said. "I think it changes hearts and changes souls and it brings people together. There's nothing better than that. I know that from my own personal experience being a professional athlete, but also being a great fan of great athletes and great individuals and organizations. I think it's a no-brainer to me for why we should fight to bring back an NBA team and an NHL team too. It starts with the arena and it starts with getting the street vacation and doing all that work. It will be a quick process, it will be a state of the art facility, that's for sure. That's the exciting part. It will be one of a kind and it will be really special."
As for how this came together, Wilson said he has known Hansen for a while, and has a good relationship with the Nordstrom family—former Seahawks owner John Nordstrom is a regular visitor at Seahawks practices and games—and Wally Walker, who are all part of the investment group trying to build a Sodo arena. And after having some conversations with Hansen and Peter and Erik Nordstrom, Wilson decided now was the time to get involved.
"We were having a great conversation, we were talking, and I told (Hansen), like 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," Wilson said. "Even though I'm young and all that, I definitely have a business mindset. 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. Obviously Chris and I have connected on that, Wally too, Wally is a great individual, Pete and Erik too. There's a great synergy and it was a really authentic approach to be able to dedicate and change history. I think that's a really cool, special thing. Like I said, it starts with the arena first, we have to make that happen. I'm excited about it."
Wilson said he's more than willing to use his clout as the Pro Bowl quarterback of a Super Bowl-winning franchise to help move the arena process along if that can help the process.
"Of course," Wilson said. "I think it's just trying to encourage people and let them understand how important it is. It will open up tons of jobs for people, too. It's a state-of-the-art facility and it will give people an opportunity. The key is the street vacation, getting that to happen and then we will be ready to roll. It's an exciting time."
And Wilson plans on having a financial stake in the game as well. Early in his career, Wilson mentioned the idea of being the owner of a sports franchise someday, and he confirmed that if a team does come to Seattle, he would have an ownership stake.
"That's the plan, yeah," Wilson said. But for now, Wilson said, "My focus is bringing an arena here so we can bring an NBA team and NHL team. That's the exciting part."
The largest celebration Seattle has ever seen to honor the Super Bowl Champions Seahawks from the players' perspective.