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Friday, July 19, 2024

Capitals, Wizards announce proposed move to Virginia

Wednesday morning, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, owner of two of the District’s beloved sports teams, announced their potential relocation from downtown to Alexandria, Virginia. If the proposal is finalized, the professional teams would relocate to their new home in 2028.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) detailed plans for the $2 billion public-private partnership Wednesday morning near the proposed site in Potomac Yards. Current plans are to create an entirely new entertainment district in Alexandria complete with practice facilities, retail and restaurants, community gathering spaces and more. The area would also serve as a new home for the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards sports teams.

“Virginia is undoubtedly the best place to live, work, raise a family, and now watch basketball or hockey,” Youngkin said.

Monumental Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ted Leonsis expressed excitement about the potential for Monumental’s growth in Alexandria noting Monumental’s interest in modernizing Capital One Arena (601 F St. NW) for use by the Washington Mystics and other visiting world-class entertainment.

“The opportunity to expand to this 70-acre site in Virginia, neighboring industry-leading innovators and a great academic partner, would enable us to further our creativity and achieve next-generation, leading work – all while keeping our fans and the community at the forefront of everything we do,” Leonsis said. 

This announcement comes hours after DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and the DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson unveiled legislation to contribute $500 million toward the modernization of Capital One Arena. Bowser called the pledge the District’s “best and final offer” to keep the sports teams in Washington “where they belong”.

In a press release, Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) said the news was sad for all residents. “I’m deeply disappointed Ted Leonsis has chosen to move the Wizards and Capitals out of the District,” read the release. “It’s the wrong decision for fans and the teams and undermines decades of goodwill, team pride, and community-building.”

Allen pointed out that in an opinion piece published Aug. 1 in the Washington Post, he had argued that the administration needed to focus on investing in Capitol One Arena over a commitment to an NFL Stadium for the Washington Commanders. “The DowntownDC Business Improvement District estimates Capital One Arena’s activity brings in $341 million in annual spending simply from game and concert days,” he wrote. “There is no offseason for this venue.”

At a press conference later the day of the announcement, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) downplayed the significance of crime in the decision, saying that while crime levels in the area were certainly concerning, historically they were a “blip”. “I did not mean to suggest that I don’t think we have a serious situation,” she said. “But I do want to put in context, and how were work to reduce crime –and we will do it again.”

She said business owners in the area should be reassured by unanimity between the Mayor and council on investments in downtown and reminded the press conference that the stadium would not be emptied tomorrow. The city will be working with the current ownership for the next 3 to 5 years on what’s next, she said. “So there are opportunities for us to even test some ideas that come out,” Bowser said, pointing to the Downtown Action Plan under development by DMPED the Downtown BID. She said she asked the team to deliver recommendations to be part of the upcoming budget discussion.

Local businesses, however, are not as confident. Clyde’s Restaurant Group marketing manager Meghan Newkumet said the group is “heart broken” by the news.

“While we are certainly hopeful that the District can change the trajectory of Penn Quarter such that we would want to continue operating there, it is unlikely that Clyde’s would remain at Gallery Place should the teams relocate to Virginia,” Newkumet said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a Dec 13 press conference. Screenshot: Twitter/@mayorbowser

The Mayor was not ready to give up hope yet that the teams will return to downtown DC. “It’s not false hope,” she said in response to questioning from reporter Tom Sherwood. “It’s very practical.” Bowser noted that while the 13-member Council of DC can make funding decisions on the fly, any deal for a stadium in Virginia would have to progress through the chambers of the state’s legislature. But, she pointed out, if what Leonsis wants is a suburban campus, DC is a city. “Our interest is in the downtown,” she said, “and our interest is in the downtown.”

She reiterated the District’s interest in keeping the teams. “We are very committed that Washington teams should play in Washington DC,” she said. “National Landing Wizards doesn’t quite have the same ring.”

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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