Alexandria residents voice concerns as approval process for new sports arena begins

A first step in the approval process for a new sports arena in Alexandria, Virginia, is already being met with backlash from some area residents.

Alexandria City Manager Jim Parajon gave a full presentation to the city council on Saturday, outlining details of the new arena and additional facilities for Monumental Sports, which owns the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards.

“No formal decision has been made on this project,” Parajon said.

The 70 acres adjacent to the new Potomac Yard Metro station would become the sports arena, as well as the headquarters and practice facilities for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, including housing their sports network.

It would also include a mixed indoor and outdoor performing arts venue and a 2,500-space underground garage.

The partnership was announced Wednesday by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson and Ted Leonsis, majority partner at Monumental.

“We have an amazing and world class city and the value that this distinction carries can further that position,” Parajon said, speaking on the prospect of housing two professional sports teams in Alexandria.

Parajon pointed to four main benefits from the project as reasons why the council should consider it for the future.

The project aligns with the vision for the neighborhood, has the potential to create a stronger financial future for the city by growing the commercial tax base, would create more opportunities for the region post-completion and would establish wealth-building opportunities for area residents through job creation, he said.

According to the plan, the project could directly and indirectly create an upwards of 30,000 jobs.

Some residents were not quite on board, though, voicing their concerns during a public hearing on the project.

“It is a crummy thing to do to our neighbors, people in Potomac Yard,” area resident Jonathan Husky said.

“Alexandria and Old Town and Potomac Yard as a whole are already very high cost-of-living areas,” said resident Holland Stasi, speaking about the risk of raised costs in the area.

“This can lead to negative impacts on our community, who are already are drowning in, suffering from the high cost of rent,” another resident said.

Concerns about how the project would affect traffic were also voiced during the hearing.

“The noise pollution, the traffic pollution, the light pollution, the people pollution, the lack of green space, no longer make our community livable — and the reason we left D.C. to come to Alexandria,” resident Adrien Lopez told the council.

The initial project would require a $2 billion investment, according to Parajon.

A sports authority would be created and would issue two bonds, one backed by tax revenues generated on-site and the other being lease payments from Monumental to use the facility. This would account for roughly 75% of the funding. Eighteen percent would be cash investment from Monumental.

“We, as a city and a commonwealth, are using our credit to assist — but pure cash of the $2 billion, 95% of that, is covered by Monumental,” Parajon said.

Still, other residents spoke out against the move due to skepticism about the cost on taxpayers, particularly unforeseen costs like placing additional law enforcement in the area.

“I love sports. There are no worse neighbors than Capitals and Wizards fans leaving a game. And that’s because by and large, they’re not our neighbors. They’re not invested in the neighborhood,” said one Potomac Yard resident who once lived in Chinatown.

Alexandria will hold many community outreach events throughout 2024. If approved by the both the city and commonwealth legislators, groundbreaking could be as early as 2025.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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