RENTON, Wash. – Russell Wilson talked for the first time about why, in the middle of a football season, he's talking about building an arena in Seattle's SODO neighborhood.
"The time is now," said the Seahawks quarterback, as he addressed the media in his regularly scheduled weekly press conference.
The subject matter veered immediately to the news this week, that he's joined Chris Hansen, Wally Walker, and Pete and Erik Nordstrom to build the $500 million complex south of Safeco Field.
"It's a great synergy, and great approach," said Wilson.
He talked about a chance to "change history,” but he said it "starts with the Arena, and getting the street vacation."
That's been the major hang up for the Hansen group. The Seattle City Council, by a vote of 5-4, rejected the elimination of a one block stretch of Occidental Avenue South in May. Since, the group has offered to build the entire building with private financing, and has signed up Wilson, who said he is willing to go to City Hall to lobby for the vacation.
"Of course, I think it’s just trying to encourage people and let them understand how important it is, and it will open up tons of jobs for people too as well,” Wilson said. “It's going to be a state of the art facility and get people the opportunity and the key is the street vacation and getting that happening, and then we’ll be ready to roll."
Wilson talked at length about his connection to the Sonics, and playing "NBA Jam" as a kid in Virginia. He wrote about it earlier this week in the Players Tribune. The quarterback says he has made a financial investment to the project, and his goal is to be a part owner of a franchise that plays there.
He said, speaking about the fans in Seattle, "Seeing all the people, million something people, black, white, Asian, all socioeconomic status, coming together for one cause, and for one great experience, and I think basketball does that."
"I want to help this community, and give back and continue to make this community better," said Wilson, who also spoke about one day taking his kids to the new building.
He also waded into the politically murky waters, involving a review of Key Arena, and the two groups looking for renovate the facility for NBA or NHL use. Wilson just reiterated how his group's project in SODO would be "state of the art" and has already gone through a "five year process.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray had previously indicated it was unlikely the Council would take up any street vacation application as long as the KeyArena Request for Proposal is active. Last week, he indicated in a letter he hoped to have an answer by June 2017.