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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Meet L. Louise Lucas, Pro Sports’ New Power Broker

  • The influential Virginia legislator continues to show firm resistance to the proposed Alexandria arena.
  • The 80-year-old has become an unlikely social media star.
Sen. L. Louise Lucas
Sen. L. Louise Lucas

One of the most powerful figures in pro sports is an 80-year-old Virginia legislator who has no prior experience in the industry but has a long and decorated history as a civic activist. And she just might deliver a fatal blow to a proposed $2 billion arena and mixed-use development in Alexandria, Va., for the Washington Wizards and Capitals. 

L. Louise Lucas, an influential Virginia state senator who chairs that body’s finance and appropriations committee, has already come out strongly against the project led by Monumental Sports and Entertainment chair Ted Leonsis, calling it “not ready for prime time.” In delivering the senate’s proposal for the upcoming state budget, Lucas did not include funding for the arena project, and she doubled down on her firm objections to the proposal.

“We’re not going to let billionaires build their fortunes on the backs of our taxpayer dollars,” Lucas said. “As you know, [MSE] is talking about going public at some point, after taxpayer dollars have gotten them to the point where they want to get to, and under my watch, I say, ‘Hell no.’”

That stance sets up a fight within the Virginia legislature, as the state assembly’s budget proposal does include support for the arena project, and with Gov. Glenn Youngkin, also a strong advocate. The budget battle will now play out over the next two-plus weeks until the end of the legislative session March 9. 

This upcoming period will be something of a referendum on the political power of Lucas, and whether she can maintain enough political support, particularly among fellow Democrats, to continue the opposition against the Alexandria arena. She has been in state politics for more than three decades after starting her professional life as a trailblazing shipfitter at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and later becoming a health-care entrepreneur. 

In addition to fighting along party, racial, and gender lines, Lucas has long been familiar with the geographic divide in Virginia, where political interests in the Washington suburbs frequently battle for resources and priority against those in the downstate Tidewater region that includes her hometown of Portsmouth. 

An Unlikely Social Media Star

In the meantime, Lucas and her staff have been running a fervent social media campaign against the arena project, and Tuesday leveled another blow against Leonsis and Youngkin, posting, “The GlennDome financing is based on ticket sales to the new arena. Looking at the projections, that appears to include Wizards playoff tickets. Wizards? Playoffs? I was still at the shipyard the last time they were relevant in that discussion and they were still called the Bullets.”

She also railed against those criticizing her for voicing her beliefs, tweeting, “The last thing anybody should ever try to do is bully me. I was a teenage mother who broke the gender barrier with a physical job at the shipyard. At 80 years old I will kick their ass and make sure everyone is watching. Not calling any names YET but you know who you are.”

The arena effort, however, has only reignited what has been more than two years of active social media combat by Lucas against the Republican Youngkin.

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