Virginia plans new arena for D.C.-area sports teams

It adds to a stadium boom that has states across the country spending taxpayer money to fund new building projects.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s Capital One Arena in Washington, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Virginia legislators will consider measures next year to spend about $1.6 billion to build a massive new sports and entertainment complex that will eventually house two Washington, D.C., sports teams, adding to a stadium boom that has states across the country spending taxpayer money to fund new building projects.

The new $2 billion site, announced Wednesday by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and local leaders, will aim to break ground in 2025 and open in 2028. The arena at the heart of the project, sited in Alexandria near Washington’s Reagan National Airport, will eventually become the home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

“This is the most visionary sports and entertainment development in the world, bringing together entertainment, sports and technology in the most advanced innovation corridor in the United States: A once-in-a-generation and historic development for the Commonwealth, sports fans and all Virginians,” Youngkin said in a statement.

Youngkin will ask the legislature to approve a new Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority to oversee the project, and to issue bonds to fund its construction. Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the parent company that owns the Wizards and Capitals, will contribute $403 million toward construction.

Del. Charniele Herring (D), the incoming majority leader in the House of Delegates, said the legislature would make the project a top priority when lawmakers begin meeting next month.

Youngkin’s office said the bonds will be repaid through annual rent paid by the teams, as well as parking revenues, naming rights and taxes generated by the arena. The governor’s office said the state would not lay out upfront investments or increase taxes to pay for the project.

Alexandria will spend $56 million to build a performing arts venue, and $50 million to build an underground parking development.

“I believe in the concept of building super communities, and right here in the DMV we have the opportunity to be one of the 10 most important communities on the planet,” said Ted Leonsis, who owns the teams. “Our commitment will be to build really iconic, fan-centric businesses.”

The deal is a blow to Washington, where the Capitals and Wizards have played at Capital One Arena in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood since 1997. Leonsis had sought $600 million in upgrades to the arena, one of the oldest in either league.

On Tuesday, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and city council chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said they could offer $500 million in public financing. The deal announced Wednesday does not preclude future negotiations with the city, but Bowser called the $500 million offer their “best and final” proposal.

The proposed new arena is at least the 10th stadium building or renovation project underway in states and cities across the country. States have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to build new stadiums for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans; Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, who will relocate to Las Vegas; and renovations for the stadium that houses the Milwaukee Brewers.

Oklahoma City residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to fund a new $900 million arena downtown for the Thunder.

The Kansas City Royals, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Rays are all negotiating new stadiums or upgrades, while the Chicago Bears plan to ask Illinois lawmakers to help them build a new stadium in the suburbs. The U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing in September to consider renovations at RFK Stadium in Washington that may eventually become the home of the Washington Commanders.