Details of a potential new home for the Washington Wizards and Capitals across the Potomac River from D.C. were unveiled Wednesday morning.
Ted Leonsis, the team owner, announced that Virginia lawmakers had reached a framework of a public-private partnership for an entertainment district in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood, which includes “an industry-leading arena” for the Wizards and Capitals.
“We are committed to providing world-class fan experiences while continuously evolving our teams, deepening community ties, and solidifying our role as leaders at the forefront of sports and technology,” Leonsis said in a statement.”
But was this actually a bargaining move to get public money from D.C. to upgrade the teams’ existing D.C. home, Capital One Arena?
Not long after news filtered out about the event to announce the potential move out of the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser offered Leonsis what he wanted months ago: Public money to help fund upgrades to the arena he owns.
In a statement to Front Office Sports on Tuesday night, Bowser’s office said it is working with D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on legislation “to support a complete renovation and modernization of the Capital One Arena.”
“Downtown DC is the District’s economic engine that provides revenue resources to support important programs in the city. Mr. Leonsis and Monumental Sports have been critical partners in keeping our downtown thriving, especially after the pandemic,” Bowser said. “This proposal represents our best and final offer and is the next step in partnering with Monumental Sports to breathe new life and vibrancy into the neighborhood and to keep the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals where they belong — in Washington, DC.”
Monumental Sports & Entertainment — the parent company of the NBA’s Wizards, NHL’s Capitals, WNBA’s Mystics, and the regional sports network that carries the teams — was looking for as much as $600 million in public funding for 27-year-old Capital One Arena earlier this year.
A spokesperson for Monumental told Front Office Sports that the unveiling would still move forward as planned despite Bowser’s proposed legislation that would earmark as much as $500 million to upgrade Capital One Arena.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Leonsis are scheduled to attend a ceremony in Alexandria, where more details will be announced Wednesday morning.
For now, Monumental is looking to relocate its headquarters to Alexandria. The new campus will house Monumental Sports Network studios and a new Wizards practice facility. Even before the move to Northern Virginia, approvals from the Virginia legislature and the Alexandria City Council still needed to be approved. One source told Front Office Sports that the project will not break ground until 2025.
The project is expected to be completed in late 2028 “should the proposal become finalized,” according to the announcement.
The Wizards and Capitals have called Capital One Arena home since December 1997. Leonsis purchased the Capitals in 1999 before he acquired the Wizards, Mystics, and the arena in D.C.’s Chinatown in 2010.
Monumental would continue operating Capital One Arena as a “flexible arena” for concerts and Georgetown basketball, potentially bringing the Mystics back into the arena. Mystics and Capital City Go-Go, a G League team, currently play at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in southeast D.C.
The Washington Post reported that Virginia’s Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission voted to approve the project, which is expected to include public financing. Before a shovel hits the dirt in Virginia, votes, an environmental impact report, and other items still must be checked off.
The Washington Commanders, searching for a new home for their stadium, studied Potomac Yards before realizing a football stadium wouldn’t fit in the area.
If D.C. cannot lure the Commanders to town, the District could have just the Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals to call its own among the four major sports.