Council member says he tried to ‘sound the alarm’ months ago that Wizards, Caps could leave DC

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Council member Charles Allen, Chair of the City Council Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety, holds a hearing on Sept., 25, 2018 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Following the announcement of a proposed deal that would move the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals to Alexandria in 2028, D.C. leaders continue to speak out about how the relocation would negatively impact the District.

The deal between Monumental Sports and Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis and Virginia still allows him to continue to bargain with D.C. if he chooses to.

WTOP anchors Shawn Anderson and Anne Kramer spoke to D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who said he started talking in August about repairs needed at Capital One Arena and what it would mean for D.C. if the repairs weren’t completed.

D.C. Council member Charles Allen joins WTOP's Shawn Anderson and Anne Kramer.

Read the conversation below:

Shawn Anderson: First, your reaction to the proposed deal to move the Wizards and Caps to a new arena in Virginia.

Charles Allen: I’m just absolutely disappointed in this. I mean, I’m disappointed in Ted Leonsis’ decision. Moving the Wizards the Capitals is the wrong decision for the teams, is the wrong decision for the District. But I also feel like I was trying to sound the alarm on this months ago that we needed to work aggressively and urgently to get a deal done to keep those teams at Cap One and downtown D.C.

Anne Kramer: So what piqued your interest what concerned you at that time back in the summer when you first started to sound the alarm?

Charles Allen: Well, if we remember back then, the contest as it were to start competing for a new NFL stadium is what was getting all the attention and the thing is, we knew this lease was coming up. We knew that Virginia was courting Monumental Sports very aggressively and I was concerned that we were taking our eye off the prize. And so my recommendation to the administration and to the city was focus on the stadium and the arenas that you’ve got already, if we lose them, don’t take them for granted. If we lose them, it’s a significant economic blow to the District and downtown. And that’s what it looks like is going to happen now.

Shawn Anderson: What happened between then and now? Mayor Bowser put a $500 million offer on the table just a couple of hours after we learned that there was going to be an announcement was there ever an offer on the table to Ted Leonsis to stay?

Charles Allen: Well, the first time that I or my colleagues ever saw a proposal on paper was the same time you saw that, those hours after the deal had already been made in Virginia. So I don’t know where the urgency was. I don’t know where the aggressive strategy was, I think that is deeply concerning. It was what I tried to warn about months ago, is that we needed to focus on this rather than focusing on kind of the shiny object, which will be a less fruitful deal for D.C.’s economy, we needed to focus on Capital One Arena and that didn’t happen. And I think that’s why we find ourselves where we are.

Anne Kramer: So what do you think needs to happen next? The mayor says she’s not done yet. But she has set up a task force to look at revitalization in case the move happens.

Charles Allen: Well, that should have happened months and months ago. And having the Caps and Wizards as a part of that should have been the priority and should have been the plan. We absolutely have got to think about what our downtown is going to look like, what that revitalization is going to look like. I hope that just this terrible decision is going to finally ignite the fire that needs to happen to really focus on this. I think about our downtown as really needing laserlike focus. Think of it as a revitalization corporation, almost, that brings in the best and the brightest, people that eat sleep and drink downtown revitalization every day. I think that’s what the city’s got to have.

Shawn Anderson: One quick question before we go. If the city were to put up $600 million, which is what we understand Ted Leonsis originally wanted, do you think he would stay in Chinatown?

Charles Allen: I think he needed to hear the city aggressively court him and court the teams, and put together a package — which could have been the same package we had the night before they traveled over to Virginia. That should have been offered months ago. That should have been what was on the table with that type of negotiation months ago. And then I think we’d be telling a very different story today.

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