Va. legislative panel backs new arena bill for NHL's Capitals, NBA's Wizards

Rendering of Monumental Sports & Entertainment's planned sports campus in Alexandria, Va., that would include an arena for the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. Illustration courtesy of JBG Smith

Rendering of Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s planned sports campus in Alexandria, Va., that would include an arena for the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. Illustration courtesy of JBG Smith

Feb. 10 (UPI) — A bill that would support the creation of a sports and entertainment district in Alexandria, Va., has passed the appropriations committee of the state’s House of Delegates, but there are significant hurdles before the project can move forward.

The House Appropriations Committee on Friday voted 17-3 in favor of the project, which seeks to bring the $2 billion Monumental Sports Complex to Alexandria.

The proposed project would relocate the Washington Wizards of the NBA and the Washington Capitals of the NHL from their current homes in Washington D.C.

The bill establishes the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority, which will be in charge of financing construction of a sports arena and entertainment district at Potomac Yard, situated next to the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, which is already under construction.

The authority will consist of 15 members, five of whom would be appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Three citizen members will be appointed by the speaker of the House, two would be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, three by the city of Alexandria, one by Arlington County and one by Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

The authority will be in charge of issuing bonds and collecting tax revenue from home and visiting athletes, and sales and income tax on businesses within the tax financing district.

That revenue would total about $1.4 billion from the state and $1.6 billion from Alexandria. Under the proposal, any excess revenue would return to the state and city every year.

Monumental Sports would contribute $403 million up-front for the project and pay over $1 billion to lease the property over 40 years.

The coalition Monumental Opportunity Partnership said Alexandria residents made more than 2,000 calls and hundreds of emails in the past few weeks expressing support for the project.

The large-scale effort, however, has faced public scrutiny. The Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard expressed a “desire for more transparency” and “more time” but said it is encouraged by a reenactment clause, which freezes the bill for one year.

“While we haven’t won the war. This is definitely a battle that we won today,” John Breyault of the Coalition to Stop the Arena told WUSA-TV .

The proposed reenactment clause could change as the bill makes its way through the full House of Delegates Tuesday and then to the Senate.

Breyault stressed he and his fellow coalition members “are not NIMBYs.”

“I think it’s fairly obvious that economic development at Potomac Yard is going to happen,” he said. “Economic development is a good thing. What’s a bad thing is when billionaire sports owners ask the taxpayers to pay for that.”

Monumental Sports & Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis — who also owns the Wizards and the Capitals — told WTOP Radio he takes Alexandria residents’ concerns “very seriously” but said some of the issues are “misunderstood.”

Leonsis said he is frustrated with people who have said the Potomac Yard Metro stop is not big enough to handle arena crowds, and that extending walkways and adding elevators and escalators would be enough to address the problem.

Residents also argued the complex would increase traffic congestion in the area, but Leonsis said he’s committed to addressing that.

“No one hates traffic more than me, but no one will drive to solutions more than me,” he said. “I am fixated on fan experience.”

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