Deal to bring Wizards, Capitals arena to Virginia needs approval from lawmakers. Will they give it?

Virginia State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, listens to debate during the Senate session at the Capitol Thursday March 10, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)(AP/Steve Helber)

The tentative agreement between Virginia and Monumental Sports & Entertainment that would move the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals from D.C. to Alexandria is not a done deal yet.

The proposal calls for the creation of a $2 billion development in the Potomac Yard section of Alexandria, along the Potomac River and near Virginia Tech’s ambitious Innovation Campus, a graduate school that is under construction.

The deal still must be approved by the Alexandria City Council and the Virginia General Assembly.

Sources on Alexandria’s council told WTOP that there is a lot of excitement and positivity about the project, but there are also questions and concerns largely about transportation and traffic congestion in the area.

“We will engage with our residents and make sure their voices are heard in this process to ensure that everyone in the city will benefit from this investment,” said Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson, who strongly supports the plan and described the project Wednesday as “transformational for our city’s future.”

Council members plan to talk about the arena during a meeting on Saturday. While they will discuss the project and provide additional details publicly, there will be no formal action on it.

The Virginia General Assembly, which will begin its 2024 legislative session next month, would need to approve the creation of a Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority, a public entity with the ability to issue bonds.

While no upfront state taxpayer dollars would go toward the project, the terms of the agreement would divert new tax revenues from the project to pay down the bonds.

State Sen. Scott Surovell, the incoming Virginia Senate majority leader, called it “a very interesting opportunity for Virginia.”

“The benefit to the rest of the state, I think, will play a large part in how other members outside of Northern Virginia feel about it,” Surovell said.

The broad outlines of the proposal call for Monumental to invest $403 million in the $2 billion development. Alexandria would put in $106 million toward the construction of the performing arts venue and the development of underground parking.

It would include an arena, as well as a new Wizards practice facility, a separate performing arts center, a media studio, new hotels, a convention center, housing and shopping.

The rest of the approximately $1.5 billion financing would be supported through the authority-issued bonds.

Those bonds would be repaid over time through rent paid by the team, parking fees, naming rights and new tax revenues generated by the development.

“It’s probably an opportunity for the entire state because the tax revenue generated by the project would benefit the entire Commonwealth and not just the Northern Virginia region,” Surovell said.

Surovell said it appears that there would need to be “significant transit usage” due to roads in the Alexandria area that are already crowded.

“The VRE runs right next to there, but there’s no VRE station next to the stadium,” Surovell said. “Seems to me that we’d need to talk about a station getting built there.”

Metro has a station that would be located right by the stadium, and the Virginia Railway Express also operates in the area.

“We have to evaluate the project for taxpayer risk,” Surovell said. “There’s going to be a lot of questions about the transportation infrastructure necessary to support the project and who’s funding that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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