Capitals, Wizards stay in DC after Virginia Arena deal falls through

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Ted Leonsis told District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser late last year that the NBA's Washington Wizards and NHL's Washington Capitals might leave Washington for Virginia, he told her no, they wouldn't.

In the end, she was proven right.

Teams are Stayed in the district Long after Gov. Glenn Young's plan to lure them to Virginia, the city and franchise reached an agreement on a $515 million publicly funded arena project.

Bowser and Leonsis signed an agreement Wednesday that will keep the teams in the district through 2050. They announced the development minutes later at a joint news conference at the teams' current home, Capital One Arena.

In a statement, Alexandria, Va. Mayor Justin Wilson says negotiations to bring the NHL Capitals and Washington Wizards to Northern Virginia are over.

“It's a great day, I'm very relieved,” Leonsis said. “It's not only the right thing for the community, it's the right thing for the city, the right thing for us, it's a very smart business deal.”

The plan included a 200,000-square-foot (18,580 square meter) expansion of the arena complex at the nearby Gallery Place site, the creation of an entertainment district in the Chinatown neighborhood, and security and transportation improvements.

“We are the current home and the future home of the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards,” said Bowser, wearing a Wizards jersey. “As Ted says, we're going to be together a long time.”

The District of Columbia Council will take up the agreement next week and is expected to pass it, Chairman Bill Mendelson said at a news conference.

The deal between Monument Sports and Recreation and the city came from officials in Alexandria across the Potomac, Virginia. He speaks for the new arena It would have moved the teams that would have ended up there.

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Leonsis admitted that Virginia had land because DC did not.

“You're in this arms race to build bigger and better and higher quality, and we're running out of space,” Leonsis said of the new recreation community, noting the deal isn't as big as 12 acres (4.9). ha) dedicated to the arena in Virginia. “But that's enough.”

The ultrawealthy entrepreneur said he generally prefers to avoid discussing Virginia, but political divisions between Youngin, a Republican, and the Democrats who control the General Assembly contributed to the plan's demise.

“You can't do it alone, and I felt like we were in a good partnership,” Leonsis said, “as opposed to where I thought I had a great partnership.”

Growth hits Young Announced months ago He hailed Alexandria's proposals as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to bring two major pro sports teams to the nation's most populous state.

In a statement Wednesday, the governor expressed disappointment and frustration, placing the blame squarely on Democrats.

“This should have been our deal and our opportunity, and all the General Assembly had to do was say: 'Memorial, monument, for wanting to come to Virginia and create $12 billion in economic investment, let's do it.' But no, personal and political agendas drove the deal away, he said.

Democrats responded that Young had mismanaged the program from the start. House Speaker Dan Scott said he was shocked by Youngin's statement, which he said sounded like it was written by a young man, and bristled at the suggestion that the Legislature should have given the deal an easy sign-off.

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“He's lost his sense of good judgment now,” said Scott, who did not fully endorse the deal but expressed openness to it.

From the tone of the report, he expects Youngin will likely retaliate by vetoing the budget lawmakers. sent him Earlier this month.

Alexandria, which first announced the news, said in a statement on its website that it was also disappointing.

“We negotiated a framework for this opportunity in good faith and participated in the process in Richmond to protect our integrity,” the statement said. “We trusted the process and were disappointed with what happened between the governor and the General Assembly.”

Matt Kelly, CEO of publicly traded real estate firm JBG SMITH, a partner in the Alexandria deal as the proposed developer, issued a blistering statement. Implications played a role in the project's demise.

“Beyond the arena, state and local governments needed tax revenue, economic development viability and what would have been Virginia's last best chance to land a professional sports franchise for at least a generation,” Kelly said.

The Virginia plan called for a $2 billion development district in Alexandria's Potomac Yards area to include not only a new stadium but also a training facility and corporate headquarters for the memorial and a separate performing arts theater.

The General Assembly was asked to create a commission that would issue bonds to finance most of the projects, supported in part by city and state governments and repaid through a combination of projected tax revenues withdrawn from development.

Youngin and other supporters said the development would create tens of thousands of jobs, along with the new tax revenue needed to cover the financing.

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The plan met with opposition From labor unionsAlexandria residents worry about traffic and DC officials Destroyed the city of Washington.

Youngin and other supporters are the powerful Democratic Sen. Portsmouth, who chairs the Senate's budget-writing committee. L. Couldn't beat Lewis Lucas. she used that position The deal's financing structure was the primary one to block the legislation, citing several concerns: The use of moral obligation bonds puts taxpayers and the state's finances at risk, Lucas said.

Lucas celebrated the passing of the proposal on Wednesday. On social media, he posted a cartoon of himself swatting a basketball with the word “rejected.” He wrote, “Today Monument announces they are staying in Washington DC and we celebrate in Virginia that we avoided the Monument disaster!”

Leonsis changed his tone on social media in recent days, pointing to huge crowds at Capital One Arena this month for everything from the Capitals and Wizards to ACC Tournament basketball and a Zach Bryant concert. Posted on Wednesday The monument expects more than 400,000 fans to pass through the turnstiles in March.

Shortly after Virginia made its offer, Leonsis said, he and Bowser began talks about keeping teams in the district, including regular meetings in a fancy hotel lobby.

“Until 10 minutes ago, I had never signed a piece of paper,” Leonsis said.


Rankin reported from Richmond, Virginia, and Barakat reported from Falls Church, Virginia.

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