Dec 08

Sports City


Russell Wilson

2008 was a big year for me.

It was my first year as starting QB at NC State. My first trip to a bowl game. And the honor of being named first-team All-ACC.That year was also a big one for Seattle sports fans, but not for a good reason. It was the first year without NBA basketball in our city.

Growing up in Virginia, the Sonics were one of my favorite teams to follow. Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Sam “Big Smooth” Perkins — on the basketball courts near my home, these were the players I often pretended to be.

The younger me could only dream of one day being a professional in any sport, let alone win a Super Bowl. Now I get a chance at fulfilling another dream. Being part of an NBA ownership group. 

I have joined and partnered with the Sonics Arena Investment Group because I believe in the plan Chris Hansen, Wally Walker, and Erik and Pete Nordstrom have put together. And I believe building a privately funded, state-of-the-art arena alongside Seattle’s other great stadiums is the best shot for bringing the NBA and NHL back to the city I now call home.

Recently, our group sent a letter to the Seattle City Council outlining a new proposal to privately fund the arena. In the letter, we provide details about our commitment to improving freight mobility in the area, and emphasize that the street vacation wouldn’t go into effect until an NBA or NHL team is secured. We also make clear that by approving the conditional street vacation the Seattle City Council will not interfere with the RFP process proposed for Key Arena, but rather put Seattle in the best possible position to take advantage of franchise opportunities that could become available.

One thing not emphasized in the letter, however, is something I know the City Council shares my passion for: How the return of the NBA can benefit Seattle youth, particularly those in traditionally underserved communities.

Obviously, I’m a big believer in the power of sports to improve lives. Not only do they teach kids critical lessons like the importance of teamwork and commitment, they also provide much-needed structure and activity outside of school. 

Sports — and sports idols — can also inspire kids. Like a lot of you, this is something I experienced first-hand when I was young. And it’s something I experience first-hand today, as my fellow Seahawks and I visit young people throughout Seattle communities.

For years, the Sonics were an inspiration for the kids of Seattle. Local heroes our youth could look up to. Even thousands of miles away, I looked up to Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, and Ray Allen — I can only imagine what it was like being able to watch them in your hometown.

Bringing the NBA — and the NHL — back to Seattle will provide our youth with a new set of local heroes to look up to. Kids who love football have a pro team to follow. Same with baseball fans and soccer fans. Now it’s time to inspire the kids who love basketball and hockey.

Approving the conditional street vacation makes the Arena shovel-ready, and sends a loud message to the NBA and NHL that Seattle is ready and eager for teams. That we want our Sonics back to accompany the Storm, and a hockey team to pick up where the Seattle Metropolitans left off nearly a century ago. All we need is for the Seattle City Council to make this one last nod of approval. 

I’m excited to be a part of the Arena Group, and I look forward to watching the Sonics and the NHL play in my adopted hometown. 

One lasting memory that I know correlates with every Seattle fan is when we won the Super Bowl and were able to bring home the Lombardi trophy, the millions of faces and hearts and souls that were, are and will be forever connected to our team is what can help to continue to bring a community together. 

This is what our society and our generations to come all need because it brings all different races, socioeconomic statuses and demographics together under one roof. We do not want to just win on the court and the ice, but also in our beloved community.

— Russell Wilson

Oct 25

Moving Forward

​​Following the Seattle City Council’s vote last May to deny the vacation of a portion of Occidental Avenue South we reiterated our commitment to bringing the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. We said we would take time to step back, evaluate our options, better understand the Council’s concerns and find a path forward.

For the past five months, we’ve been doing just that. We have carefully considered the various concerns expressed by Council members and identified steps we could take to address those concerns. In a letter to the Mayor and King County Executive — both of whom share our goal of bringing the Sonics and NHL back to Seattle — we described the steps we are willing to take to move the Arena project forward.

First, we will direct contributions to a package of additional SODO traffic improvements, which will improve freight mobility through the area.

Second, we agreed to commit future payment of compensation for the vacated street to the city’s financing package for the Lander Street Overpass, thereby helping to close the funding gap for that important project. 

Finally, we have agreed to revising the street vacation petition to eliminate public financing of the Arena. Terminating the MOU would allow the city and county to recoup the $200 million in debt capacity and free-up Arena tax-generated revenue streams. 

To make this all possible we have asked for approval of a revised conditional street vacation, a waiver of the city’s admissions tax, which has been granted for the other sports venues in Seattle, and an adjustment of the city’s B&O tax for revenue generated out of town.

We are hopeful these additional steps will address the concerns of the Council so the Arena project can move forward – which remains the critical first step to bringing the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. 

Go Sonics!

— Chris Hansen, Erik Nordstrom, Pete Nordstrom, Wally Walker

May 02

Statement from Chris Hansen on behalf of the Arena Investment Group

​​Today’s City Council vote was disappointing but we don’t believe it is the end of the road in our quest to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. We know all the fans who have stood solidly by us these past years share our disappointment but it is important that we all stay focused on our shared goal. 

We now need to take a little time to step back and evaluate our options, better understand the council’s concerns and find a path forward. We will keep you posted.

Apr 27

Investment Team Letter to City Council Urging for Street Vacation

​Yesterday Sonics Arena Investment Team members Erik Nordstrom, Wally Walker and Pete Nordstrom sent a letter to the Seattle City Council, urging the Council to approve the Occidental Avenue street vacation on May 2nd. Here is the letter:

Mar 16

A Great Night For Sonics Fans!

We wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who came down to City Hall yesterday to show their support for making Sonics Arena shovel-ready. Our team was once again humbled by the dedication Sonics fans, hockey fans and civic leaders have displayed throughout this long review process.

We’d like to especially thank the 13,711 people who signed our petition and Cooper for delivering them. A big thank you as well to KJR, Softy, Lenny Wilkens, Brandon Roy, James Donaldson, Donald Watts, Jaci McCormack from Rise Above, Kevin Calabro, Mayor Ed Murray, Mike McGinn, the Seattle Sports Commission and Unite Here Local 8, among many others for your support last night. And we’d like to thank the City Council, for providing a public forum for people to weigh in on this work.

Last night was a critical opportunity for fans to voice their approval. Now it's time to keep the pressure on before the City Council votes late April or early May.

Over the next several weeks the Council will hold more meetings to review specific aspects of this proposal before the final vote. So please email the entire City Council at [email protected] to remind them how much community support there is to approve the street vacation. Here are some talking points you can consider using:

  1. After a lengthy environmental review process the Seattle Department of Transportation recommended the street vacation.

  2. The Seattle Mariners received street vacations for Safeco Field and the Mariners Parking garage.
  3. The street vacation is the final step of the EIS process and will give the investment team the green light to build an arena which puts Seattle in the best place it can be to take advantage of opportunities that will come up.
  4. Approving the street vacation will show the NBA and NHL we are ready to welcome professional teams to our city.
  5. The Mayor and the Seattle City Council deserve our thanks for all the hard work they’ve done over the past three years to bring us to this exciting moment.

There's still much more work to do, but with your support, we are now closer than ever to welcoming the NHL to Seattle and BRINGING BACK OUR SONICS!

Thank you!

— The Sonics Arena Team

Mar 14 • Messages from Chris

A Thank You From the Sonics Arena Team


Chris Hansen

​As we enter the final phase of the arena EIS process we wanted to take a moment to extend our sincere thanks to all of you who have stood with us over the past several years. Getting the street vacated is the last hurdle in the permitting process and will give us the green light to build an arena. More importantly, it will put Seattle in the best possible position to bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle.

Your support has been critical in getting us to this point and we can’t thank you enough for that. I hope you will be able to attend the Tuesday Public hearing and pre-hearing tip-off to let the City Council know just how important it is to have a shovel-ready arena project. You can also show your support by signing the petition and emailing the City Council at [email protected]

Again, thank you all very much — we wouldn’t be at this point in the process without your support. Let’s get this last piece done.

— Chris Hansen, Pete Nordstrom, Wally Walker, Erik Nordstrom

Mar 10

​Voice Your Support for Bringing the NBA and NHL to Seattle

On Tuesday, March 15 at 5:30 pm the City Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed “street vacation” for a section of Occidental Avenue in Seattle’s Stadium District – this is the final step in the EIS process.

If you plan on testifying in support of the street vacation for Sonics Arena make sure to show up at least an hour early to sign-up. If you don’t want to testify, just show up wearing your green and gold.

Public Hearing Tip-Off!

Join KJR, Kevin Calabro and fellow fans for a public hearing tip-off.

Tip-Off Seattle City Hall, Bertha Knight Landes Room Main Floor, Tuesday, March 15 at 4 pm.

Public Hearing Council Chambers 2nd Floor, Tuesday, March 15 at 5:30 pm.

Consider taking transit to the meeting. The Pioneer Square Bus Tunnel and Light Rail stop is only a few blocks away, and the 3rd Avenue Corridor is also nearby.

Tips for Testifying

Be Brief Keep your comments under a minute – if you are speaking on behalf of a group or organization your remarks should be under 5 minutes — and ask any members of your group present to stand as you testify.

Be Polite Remember that those against building the Arena also have a right to be heard.

Talking Points to Consider

After a lengthy environmental review process the Seattle Department of Transportation recommended the street vacation.

The Seattle Mariners received street vacations for Safeco Field and the Mariners Parking garage.

The street vacation is the final step of the EIS process and will give the investment team the green light to build an arena which puts Seattle in the best place it can be to take advantage of opportunities that will come up. 

Approving the street vacation will show the NBA and NHL we are ready to welcome professional teams to our city.

The Mayor and the Seattle City Council deserve our thanks for all the hard work they’ve done over the past three years to bring us to this exciting moment.

One More Thing…

Have fun! This is a special opportunity to be a part of bringing back our Sonics!

Unable to attend? Please email your support to the Seattle City Council at [email protected] You can also show your support on Twitter via the hashtag #gametime.

Mar 02

It’s Game Time!

​Sonics Fans,

It's time to remind our elected officials how much support there is to BRING BACK OUR SONICS.

Throughout this long review process we’ve been driven by your passion for returning the NBA and NHL to Seattle. Now we’re asking you to once again show the Seattle City Council just how passionate you are.

The City Council will soon vote on whether to approve a “street vacation” for a section of Occidental Avenue South between S. Holgate Street and S. Massachusetts Street (see map below). This vote is a common procedure for when a publicly owned street is turned over for private use because a project — in this case, the Arena — has a public benefit. In fact, the Seattle Mariners received a similar street vacation before building Safeco Field.

[Click to Embiggen]

To show your support for the arena, please email the Seattle City Council at [email protected]

– The Sonics Arena Team 

Feb 02

An Update on the Arena Approval Process

As we wait for the City Council vote on the street vacation we wanted to remind everyone of the long and involved process we've been through the past three years. We are proud of the work we have accomplished with the public, transportation and economic experts, civic and elected leaders as we move forward with our shared goal of returning the Sonics to Seattle and welcoming the NHL back to our city.

In May 2015, we shared an update on the Environmental Impact Statement work to celebrate the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The FEIS, after careful analysis, supported by the initial positive input from an Expert Review Panel, confirmed that there will be no significant adverse impacts standing in the way of completing the permitting process for a new arena. We shared a summary of the FEIS findings as well.

We believe that this project is stronger because of the public involvement and expert analysis of our initial proposal. Just how far have we come? Let’s take a quick look at our shared work as we prepare for the City Council’s review of the necessary street vacation to construct the new arena in the Stadium District:

December 2011

After months of negotiations, the Mayor of Seattle and King County Executive reach agreement with Chris Hansen on a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of the SoDo Arena.

March 2012

An Arena Review Panel appointed by Mayor of Seattle and King County Executive convenes to examine the arena proposal.

April 2012

After numerous public meetings, the Arena Review Panel issues its favorable report.

"Based on their review, the Panel believes that the proposal is favorable, has promise and is generally consistent with the principles set forth by the Mayor and County Executive..."

May 2012

King County Council Expert Review Panel undertakes comprehensive review of the arena proposal.

May 2012

A Seattle Department of Transportation-commissioned multimodal transportation access and parking study is published.

"Arena event traffic is well within the existing parking, traffic and transit capacity of the area."

July 2012

 County Council Expert Review Panel issues favorable report.

"The proposed public-private partnership is one of the most favorable to the public of any recent partnership. The public investment carries little or no risk to the county’s financial well-being, its bond rating or its general fund...."

May – July 2012

King County Council Budget and Fiscal Management Committee and Seattle City Council Government Performance and Finance Committee consider the proposal in multiple public meetings.

July 2012

Joint City and County Council public hearing on proposal.

July 2012

Full County Council consideration of Arena MOU, approved with conditions.

September 2012

City Council makes additional changes and approves the MOU.

October 2012

City and County Councils both approve amended MOU. The King County Council approves the MOU 9-0 while the Seattle City Council approves 7-2.

October 18, 2012

MOU signed by Chris Hansen, Mayor of Seattle, and King County Executive.

November 2012 – September 2015

After 7 meetings over 3 years the Downtown Design Review Board grants unanimous approval of final design of the arena project.

December 2012 – September 2015

After 10 meetings over 3 years the Seattle Design Commission unanimously recommends approval of the vacation of Occidental Avenue for the arena project.

July 2013

Economic Impact Analysis published.

The new analysis of the SoDo Arena shows the facility would have "a total net positive economic benefit" of between $230 million and $286 million a year to the economy of King County, with most of the money flowing through the City of Seattle’s economy. 

— Puget Sound Business Journal

August 2013

Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued.

September 10, 2013

Draft EIS public hearing.

September 19, 2013

Draft EIS public hearing.

May 7, 2015

Final EIS issued.

While a number of potential transportation impacts, and associated mitigation measures to address those impacts were identified, no significant adverse impacts in any other area were identified.

October 29, 2015

Addendum to FEIS issued.

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development re-analyzed pedestrian traffic numbers used in the EIS following concern expressed by the Seattle Mariners. Upping the Safeco Field game attendance from 13,000 to 40,000, the addendum certified that "the changes do not create additional significant impacts."

November 30, 2015

SDOT report and positive recommendation for street vacation submitted to the City Council.

“The FEIS shows that this portion of Occidental does not serve as a critical function to the street grid.”

“The FEIS shows that this portion of Occidental does not serve a critical function to maintain freight mobility.”

“The segment proposed to be vacated is not included in the Port's important Heavy Haul Network. This is a clear sign that Occidental is not necessary to freight movement or Port Operations."

“The SDOT does not find adverse land use impacts associated with the proposed vacation.”

We are humbled by the amount of support we’ve received for returning the NBA and NHL to Seattle, but we also know that we must be patient and transparent as the arena process moves forward. There’s still work to be done, but as you can see, we’ve come a really long way.

— The Sonics Arena Team

May 26

Seattle Arena MOU Recap

Now that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Seattle Arena has been released and we know there are no significant adverse impacts standing in the way of completing the permitting process, we thought it a good time to step back and review the important aspects of the Arena Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by the Seattle and King County Councils in 2012.


The Arena will be developed and primarily financed with private funds. The public participation is designed to be self-financing and requires no new taxes or fees. The public financial participation will be repaid solely with Arena generated revenues that would not otherwise exist. The MOU includes multiple layers of protection built into the financing that protect the general funds and bond ratings of the city and county from being affected. A few of the key protections included in the MOU are as follow:

  • No public financial participation is triggered until an NBA franchise is acquired and located in Seattle via a binding non-relocation agreement.
  • Multiple reserve funds are established that protect the City from ever coming out of pocket to fund any Arena tax revenue shortfalls. The public participation is further backstopped by the value of the franchises themselves via guarantees in the MOU.
  • 100% of any construction cost overrun is borne by the Arena’s private investors.
  • If only an NBA team is acquired, public participation is capped at $125 million until an NHL team is acquired.
  • City will own the Arena and land underneath outright, even after 100% of the public participation has been repaid.
  • The MOU establishes a separate fund from ArenaCo contributions and Arena revenues to finance ongoing maintenance and repair and future capital upgrades to the facility.
  • The Arena shall be designed and constructed in collaboration with the City and County and their consultants and staff.
  • ArenaCo will maintain Labor Peace Agreements with labor organizations which represent workers in King County.
  • The MOU creates a $40 million fund to improve transportation infrastructure in the SoDo area.


Arena construction would support approximately 3,570 jobs and $289 million in wage earnings — ArenaCo commits to using the City of Seattle’s Inclusion Plan as guidance for the use of WMBE’s on the project.

NBA and NHL franchises will create demand of upwards of 5,000 hotel room nights per season, providing a boost to tourism during the winter months.

Gross regional economic activity from Arena operations would generate approximately $313 million in economic activity annually.


ArenaCo will enter into a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) with appropriate community organizations that will be affected by the Arena, including Pioneer Square and the Chinatown/International District, to address potential economic, transportation, parking, or public safety concerns related to the Arena and its operation.

The NBA team housed in the Arena will be required to make tickets to games affordable to middle and low-income families by offering 1,500 tickets per game at reduced prices ($20 or less).

ArenaCo will require teams to establish partnerships with organizations throughout King County that serve youth and underserved communities, particularly those areas identified as having health and education disparities by Public Health Seattle-King County.

The NBA franchise will establish partnerships with the goal of contributing to the success and health of youth with initiatives such as scholarship funds, after-school programs, youth mentorship and improved basketball facilities in the region to increase opportunities to play and learn the game of basketball.

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