David Wright was six years old when his dad, Howard S. Wright, teamed up with Lloyd Nordstrom and three other community leaders to bring a new major league sports team to Seattle. Today, he and his brother Jeff were introduced as members of the local ownership group supporting David Bonderman’s effort to bring the NHL, and ultimately the NBA, back to Seattle.
”It was a big part of things for our family. In my dad’s mind [Bringing the Seahawks to town] was, besides the Space Needle, by far his greatest achievement in life.
Growing up as a kid for me was football and the Seahawks. My experience was Sunday mornings, going down to the King Dome early and meeting all the folks. My father walked around that stadium and he was so friendly. He knew everyone’s name and didn’t care what role you had, it took a lot of people to make that whole system work and he didn’t care if you were the vice president or working behind the counters selling concessions. He wanted to get to know you. He appreciated what you were doing. So that’s what I grew up with. We couldn’t make it a half a section before he’d stop and start talking to somebody else and so here I am, 40 years later, potentially having that same experience with my kids. They are 10 years older than I was at the time, but still. It’s just having the same opportunity.”
The Wright family is best known for their stewardship of the Space Needle but also deeply embedded in Seattle and it’s sports franchises. David and Jeff’s Great grandfather, Howard S. Wright, began his career as a cabinet maker in Port Townsend before moving to Seattle in 1929 where his company went on to build iconic properties including the Space Needle, Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia Tower, and Seattle Center Coliseum.
In addition to being a founding owner of the Seahawks, David’s dad helped launch the original NASL Sounders franchise in 1973. H. S. Wright III, David and Jeff’s older brother, was a minority owner of the Sonics who made a last ditch effort to re-purchase the team from Clay Bennett and joined my ArenaSolution Coalition in 2011. Jeff Wright (along with fellow NHL minority owner Andy Jassy) served as a member of Chris Hansen’s business advisory committee in 2012. Both Jeff and David were long term Sonics season ticket holders.
David admits that hockey will be a new passion for him but credits the impact sports can have on a community as his primary motivation for involvement. He points to fellow minority owner Adrian Hanauer’s launch of the Seattle Sounders FC as an example of building community around a newly introduced franchise.
“Obviously I have a love for sports and through that I’ve experienced some hockey in my life but I can’t tell you that hockey is my number one passion or at least it has been until this point in my life, but we’re doing this for Seattle. I’ve watched sports my whole life and there’s one thing sports does within a city is it unites people. It brings people together. I’ve really paid close attention to what Adrian Hannauer did when he brought the back the Sounders and it just contributed another great thing to our city.
He expects that local ownership to be actively involved in building the organization’s culture and actions , expressing great confidence in franchise CEO Tod Leiweke to support and facilitate local involvement at all levels.
Obviously here in Seattle we don’t have a great experience with non-local ownership. So that’s why I think Tod felt this was so important. David Bonderman went to University of Washington and he’s still involved in the university today so he understands Seattle, he understands the culture but he doesn’t live here full time and so I think that’s why it was really important for us to compile a group of local owners.
The local ownership group, we’re there to be that voice for the city, for our fans and to be in the community and hear what people are saying, hear what people want.
In Seattle we’re passionate, we’re smart. People will realize if you’re genuine or not and I think that our fans will realize that this ownership is genuine, cares what the fans think and is committed to providing the right product. Not just wins and losses but just the whole experience of going to the game and how the buildings run and things like that.
That is why it’s really important for us to compile a group of local owners. Tod has a specific relationship with every one of those local owners, you know. Mine with Tod was when he was on the Space Needle board of directors. Adrian met Tod through the Sounders connection. We’ll leave it up to Tod to figure out how he is going to best utilize all of us and let us contribute.”
David believes this ownership group is committed to bringing the NBA back to Seattle as well.
“I was certainly an avid Sonic fan, long time season ticket holder back in the day.
It was terrible that we lost them. Obviously the passion that we still see in this city for the Sonics, in what you’re doing and the followers that you have. Clearly there’s enough support here for them and David Bonderman has made it public that if or when the opportunity arises he will be the first one there to try to bring a team back to Seattle. I think this local ownership group is passionate about it as well and wants to see NBA back in Seattle. And there’s a lot that’s going to go on between now and if that happens someday but I believe this group will right at the front door trying to make it happen.”
The six-year-old kid who attended Seattle’s first ever NFL opening day with his triumphant dad has grown up. Now a parent in his 40’s, David Wright has a unique opportunity to share that same experience no only with his son, but with all of Seattle when his group brings the NHL - and eventually the NBA - to Seattle.
David knows how he is going to spend opening night.
“I’ll be there with my children. I’ll be there with my family. You’re only there at the first game once and you can’t pass that up with family.
It’s funny how life comes full circle”