‘This deal is a win-win-win’: Mayor Bowser praises new deal to keep Caps, Wizards in downtown DC

The Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards are staying in D.C. until at least 2050 after city leaders and the teams’ owner Ted Leonsis agreed to a $515 million deal on Wednesday.

The agreement was announced after the City of Alexandria said negotiations to bring the two teams to Northern Virginia have ended. The deal is expected to easily pass the D.C. Council during Tuesday’s vote. The $515 million deal will be folded into the city’s capital budget to be paid over the next three years.

Mayor Muriel Bowser joined WTOP to discuss D.C.’s deal with Monumental Sports and the benefits it brings to the District’s downtown area.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joins WTOP's John Aaron and Michelle Basch to discuss the District's arena deal

The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Michelle Basch: It has been a dramatic three-and-a-half months since we got that big announcement from Ted Leonsis and Virginia’s governor about the plan to open a new arena at Potomac Yard. At the time, you also announced a plan to keep the teams in D.C. Take us through what’s been happening behind the scenes since then.

Muriel Bowser: Well, we advanced a great deal for Monumental and for the District. We have just been building on that infrastructure and support and recognition of our teams in Monumental Sports as a company, as well as a very important downtown anchor. And so I think it was very clear that we want our teams. We want a huge renovation that will support our downtown comeback, and that’s what we accomplished.

John Aaron: You said teams. I have to mention that the Commanders are a team, and you have been not shy about saying you would like them in D.C. long term. Do you think that this adds momentum to that push?

Muriel Bowser: Well, I think we have invested in being a sports capital since the time I’ve been mayor and before that, Mayor Williams put a stake in the ground in bringing the Nationals to Washington and bringing baseball back to Washington D.C. We built Audi Field, so we have world-class soccer in Washington. And I haven’t been shy about saying that we think that D.C. sports teams should be in the District. But what we’re focused on right now is the downtown and the great decision by Monumental Sports to reset, and for our community as a whole to galvanize around how we bring more workers downtown, how we convert more office buildings to housing and how we have more activations inside the arena and outside the arena. And I think this deal is a win-win-win on all of those accounts.

Michelle Basch: And what happens next, what are we hearing from D.C. Council in terms of their possible approval?

Muriel Bowser: Well, I think you know, in December every council member, all 13, signed on to my bill that would authorize a deal with Monumental. I expect that the council will move on that emergency legislation this Tuesday. They will also consider the appropriation of the money in the budget that I will submit to them next week. And in 70 days, that will be approved. And then, this will be like all of their development deals: all of the paperwork and fine points will be negotiated, and then, they’ll get to work. And so Monumental will work with their designers to design a fabulous project and then they’ll get to work.

John Aaron: We did mention that this is going to cost the city half a billion dollars. Do you worry that that’s going to be criticized as a handout in some ways? That was the arguments that Virginia lawmakers used against putting the arena in Alexandria.

Muriel Bowser: Well, it’s a different for us. Our financials are different, and the financials of the deal are different. And we’ve had a long-standing relationship with Monumental and we’ve already invested in that location and the company at Capital One, at our entertainment and sports arena as well. And the spin off of what they do for the downtown is incredible. So we know the direct taxes that they pay, but their impact on small businesses around them. And quite frankly, on how the city feels. What I learned loud and clear in the last three-and-a half-months is that our residents and businesses feel the way I do about what a world-class city should have. We believe that a world-class city has its sports teams, and the investment that we’re making we know will pay off. All we have to do is look at the Capitol Riverfront community that surrounds Nats Park. The same arguments were made then about our $600 million investment in Nats Park, and Nats Park has repaid its bonds faster than anybody expected and generated more revenue for the District. And here’s why that’s important: those revenues help us fund schools. They help us have more public safety officials. They help us have great roads and transportation. And so, our budget will always reflect investments that have a great return on the investment and create more value for the District.

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