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Deal to Lure Capitals, Wizards to Virginia Coming Up for Vote Among Lawmakers


A group of Virginia state lawmakers have teed up a vote to bring the Washington Wizards and Capitals across the Potomac River, two of those lawmakers tell News4.

The teams’ current facility, currently known as the Capital One Arena, has been home to those teams for years in D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood. But the Caps and Wizards could relocate to a proposed arena in the burgeoning Potomac Yard area of Alexandria, where a new Metro station opened earlier this year.

Virginia State Sen. Dick Saslaw, who sits on the commonwealth’s Major Economic Investment (MEI) Project Approval Commission, confirmed to News4 that the committee met Monday to vote on a deal to build a new arena for the teams.

The package would include at least one new hotel, a music venue/convention center and a $200 million transportation package, said State Del. George Barker, who also serves on the commission. Another Virginia state senator close to discussions said the convention center would have 3,000 seats. That lawmaker said the package also includes a deal for the front office and TV network of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the teams.

Late Monday, the Washington Post reported that the Virginia lawmakers voted in favor of the plan. News4 has reached out to commission members and is awaiting confirmation of the vote’s tally.

Earlier in the day, a company spokesperson for Monumental, which owns the teams, did not directly address the possibility, saying only, “Monumental Sports & Entertainment is committed to delivering the best fan experience, winning championships, giving back to our communities, and becoming the most valuable regional sports and entertainment enterprise in the world so that we can continue to reinvest in our fans and community. Our commitment to the DMV is unwavering and we look forward to sharing plans for future investments.”

As Capital One Arena ages, teams’ owner seeks hundreds of millions from DC

Capital One Arena has long been credited as the driver that brought Chinatown and downtown D.C. back to economic success in the early 2000s. But now the arena is among the oldest in both the NBA and NHL, and the surrounding area has grappled with rising crime rates.

Although the 20,000-seat arena also serves as a major concert venue, it hosts a total of 84 games per year for the Caps and Wizards, bringing in tens of thousands of fans. To have the teams leave D.C. now could be devastating to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s post-pandemic comeback plan and to the neighborhood itself.

While Monumental owns Capital One Arena, the District owns the land on which it sits, and Monumental founder and CEO Ted Leonsis has complained about the ground lease.

In 2016, Leonsis said he had “the worst building deal in professional sports,” according to the Washington Post, which reported that he said he was paying $14 million per year in interest, $9 million in principal and maintenance costs that the year before cost $13 million. “By comparison, he said, most teams pay rent of $3 million to $4 million to play in municipally owned arenas,” the Post reported.

After Leonsis asked the District this fall for some $600 million in improvements, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser launched a commission to study options.

Bowser said Monday that she aims to keep both teams in the District.

“Mayor Bowser and [D.C. Council] Chairman [Phil] Mendelson have worked together closely, and in lockstep, to put forward a strong proposal to Monumental Sports, and after several months of negotiations, we are committed to seeing this through as a vital component of D.C.’s comeback,” her office told News4.

Monumental’s lease at Capital One Arena goes until 2047, but Leonsis could get out of it in 2027 if he pays off a bond on the lease, which would cost about $36 million.

Virginia would lease new arena to Monumental Sports for 40 years, lawmaker says

Although the details of the Virginia deal have yet to be worked out, Barker said he believes approval is a sure thing.

The proposed site is located behind the Target store in a popular shopping center and next to the new Potomac Yard Metro station. The roughly $200 million of transportation funding that would be included in the deal would help double the capacity of that Metro station, with a walkway directly from the station into the arena.

Barker said the project wouldn’t cost Virginia taxpayers anything because it would not come from an existing pool of money. The commonwealth would own any arena and lease it to Monumental for 40 years, and the company’s lease would pay off the project over that time, Barker said.

Multiple sources involved with the project said Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration and the city of Alexandria have been working hard on this proposal for months.

However, Youngkin’s office and Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson both declined to comment Monday.

If the commission approves the plan, a formal bill would be drafted and introduced to the full General Assembly this coming session. If approved, Youngkin would then need to sign it and the proposal would be presented to Monumental, which then would consider Virginia’s offer or seek a better deal from the District.

Source: NBC Washington

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