Farwell pushed for sale of Kent’s Thunderbirds hockey team

After 15 years of owning the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team, Russ Farwell and the rest of the ownership group decided it was time to sell the team.

Farwell, who will remain as general manager for the next couple of years, bought the team in 2002 along with 13 other people when the Western Hockey League club still played in Seattle. The T-Birds moved to Kent’s new city-owned ShoWare Center in January 2009.

”We started with 14 members but were down to eight in the end,” Farwell said in an email Tuesday about Thunderbird Hockey Enterprises. “We owned the team for 15 years and the group was getting older. Specifically, I am looking to reduce my role and involvement over the next few years. I was the main push to sell and the group felt that it was best to all go at the same time.”

The Kent City Council on Oct. 17 approved the transfer of ownership to Silent Ice. The WHL earlier this month approved brothers Dan and Lindsey Leckelt, of Alberta, Canada, as the new owners. The brothers are co-CEOs of Silent-Aire, a global HVAC and data center manufacturing company with Seattle-area clients.

“The current facility is considered to be top in class in the WHL, and we are proud to call the facility our home for the next 20-plus years,” the Leckelt brothers said in a letter to the city. “The facility and strong relationship with the city are a large part of the reason the new ownership group made this investment in the Thunderbirds.”

Financial details about the sale have not been released.

Colin Campbell, vice president and a part of Thunderbird Hockey Enterprises, will stay on in his vice president role.

“Russ and Colin have been great partners to the city of Kent,” said Ben Wolters, city economic and community development director, in his report to the council about the sale. “Their coming to this community made the accesso ShoWare Center a reality, we couldn’t have done it without them. They have brought through their team great entertainment and made Kent a destination in the region. They have spent years contributing to this community in a lot of different ways.”

Wolters said the WHL looked into the financial assets of the Leckelt brothers and came away impressed.

“They have met all of the league’s background and credit checks,” Wolters said. “The WHL is satisfied in all respects. They have significant financial resources to successfully operate the team.”

Silent Ice will continue all obligations under the 30-year lease signed in 2009 by the T-Birds with the city, including playing at ShoWare Center. The brothers also plan to buy a home in Kent, Wolters said.

Council members met with the new owners earlier in October.

“They are committed to the city of Kent and carrying on the legacy that Russ and Colin began to built,” Council President Bill Boyce said. “After meeting with them, I feel really good that this is a good thing to do. And I want to thank Russ and Colin for putting us on the map and what you have put together.”

The T-Birds won the WHL title in the 2016-2017 season, their first in the 40-year history of the franchise.

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