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Alexandria Sports and Entertainment Complex Proposal Nixed

By ARLnow.com

Wednesday - 8/7/2013, 10:45am  ET

Rendering of proposed sports and entertainment complex in AlexandriaIt could have competed against Arlington County’s planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, but instead a proposal to build a massive sports and entertainment complex in Alexandria has been withdrawn.

It was announced in June that a company had submitted an unsolicited proposal to transform Alexandria’s Hensley Park into a sports and entertainment facility. The proposed complex included features like an Olympic-sized pool and water play area; basketball, volleyball, baseball and gymnastics centers; ice rinks; indoor tennis and squash courts; a climbing wall; and a driving range.

A pool, water play area, climbing wall and racquetball courts are all also part of Arlington’s plan for the Long Bridge Park facility. (County Board Chair Walter Tejada said in June that he did not expect the Alexandria proposal to impact the county’s plans.)

The St. James Group LLC announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it was withdrawing its unsolicited proposal after discovering that Hensley Park was acquired by Alexandria, in part, via a small federal grant. The grant prohibits development of the park.

The company says it will now seek other D.C. area locations for the complex.

“SJG remains committed to developing the premier sports and entertainment complex in the region,” the company said in a press release. Read the full press release, after the jump.

The St. James Group LLC (SJG) is disappointed to announce the withdrawal of its unsolicited proposal to develop Joseph Hensley Park in the City of Alexandria into the premier sports and entertainment complex on the eastern seaboard. The decision was made in cooperation with the City of Alexandria after the recent discovery of documents in the City’s non-public archives and of additional documents in the non-public archives of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation that effectively preclude the development of the Hensley Park site into a sports and entertainment complex as proposed by SJG.

SJG’s decision to submit an unsolicited proposal to Alexandria was the result of extensive due diligence and analysis, including a thorough title examination from a respected title insurance company, which committed to insuring the title to the land in the event that SJG was successful in its efforts to lease Hensley Park from the City. Nothing in that title examination suggested that there was any impediment to the City’s lease of the land, should it be so inclined after completion of the public processes that the City’s policies require. However, in response to public comment that federal Land & Water Conservation Fund Act grant money was potentially used to acquire a portion of Hensley Park, SJG and the City began looking at other records and sources of information to try to determine whether or not such funds had been used and if there was any resulting limitation on the proposed use. While inquiries of the National Park Service, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (which had previously leased Hensley Park from the City) initially suggested that no such funds had been used and the City relayed that information to the public, City staff continued to search archived records to find the information necessary to resolve this question.

In that context, the City recently provided SJG with information it retrieved from its archives, to which neither SJG nor the title company had access, which suggested that a 13-acre portion of Hensley Park was acquired in 1977 with the assistance of a small federal grant to supplement the use of City park bond funds. While the source of those federal funds is not identified, the 1977 documents relating to the purchase of a portion of Hensley Park mention the use of “grant funds.” Earlier today the Department of Conservation and Recreation advised the City, which shared the information with SJG, that the Department had located records of a 1977 Land & Water Conservation Fund Act grant that assisted the City with the acquisition of a more than 13-acre property identified only as the Lynch Tract. The records uncovered by the City, together with the information provided by the Department, establish that this property forms a portion of Hensley Park.

The requirements of the Land & Water Conservation Fund Act constitute a barrier of sufficient magnitude to the development of Hensley Park that SJG has determined that the best course of action is to pursue other locations for its proposed sports and entertainment complex.

SJG remains committed to developing the premier sports and entertainment complex in the region. SJG appreciates the interest and professionalism of Alexandria’s elected officials, appointed officials and staff over the past six weeks as SJG has shared its vision with the community. SJG would also like to thank the broad coalition of Alexandrians — families, athletes, coaches, and business owners — who have been extremely supportive of its interest in Alexandria.