Increased traffic, taxes and crime among concerns voiced during rally opposing new Alexandria sports arena

Standing in front of the Potomac Yard Metro station, opponents to the proposed sports and entertainment complex that would house the Washington Wizards and Capitals ticked off a laundry list of their concerns: increased traffic on Route 1, higher taxes and the potential for an increase in crime, among other things.

Former Alexandria Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald said more analysis as well as citizen input is needed before the $2 billion deal moves ahead.

“Do not provide this funding,” Macdonald said. “At the very least, put it on hold and do some in-depth studies that make us feel like the project actually is based on something other than speculation and hope.”

He’s also a board member of the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard, the group that held the rally.

Another board member, Shannon Curtis, said a detailed cost-benefit analysis is needed. She’s concerned that the potential positive economic impact of the plan is overstated.

“It’s not a new economic benefit,” said Curtis. “It’s simply pulling it from somewhere else and putting it in this new, splashy area.”

She also expressed concern about the viability of depending on an arena for revenue streams.

“Sports leagues are notorious for having labor disputes and lockouts,” she said. “It doesn’t happen frequently, but it absolutely happens.”

Curtis said the group is determined to keep “putting our voice in the community, garnering support and making sure our public officials know that our voice is important.”

A summary of a report conducted by consultants for the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership stated the development of a sports and entertainment district could generate 30,000 jobs.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told WTOP the proposed funding model “minimizes the risk on the taxpayers” because funding would come from three streams: Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis would put up $403 million of his own, the City of Alexandria would contribute $100 million and a proposed Virginia sports and entertainment authority would issue bonds for the bulk of the $2 billion project.

Those bonds would be paid back with new tax revenues generated by the entertainment district.

About two dozen supporters attended the rally, and the group’s gained support from a neighbor across the Potomac. Ron Moten, a longtime activist and leader with Don’t Mute DC told the protesters, “We’re with you, we’re with you!”

“Everything that glitters is not gold!” Moten told the group.

Referring to Leonsis, Moten said, “You have my city build a $65 million stadium, and then years later, you tell us it’s not good enough!”

Moten said it was baffling to see the decision to pull out of the D.C. given the infrastructure already in place in the Gallery Place-Chinatown neighborhood.

“We have underground parking, we have a transportation system that’s built for this,” he said, comparing what’s already in place in D.C. compared to what would have to be built in Alexandria.

The Potomac Yard Metro would require major changes to handle the crowds envisioned in the plan for the site, according to Metro General Manager Randy Clarke, who said after the announcement last month that the Potomac Yard Metro station is a “one escalator, one stair approach on each platform.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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