‘Something big happened right next door’: Virginia Tech plugs-in to proposed entertainment district

A rendering of one of the buildings in Virginia Tech's Innovation Campus in Alexandria. (Courtesy Virginia Tech)

The neighborhood keeps getting better, for Virginia Tech’s still-being-built Innovation Campus in the Potomac Yard area of Alexandria, Virginia.

“Yesterday, something big happened right next door,” said Mark Owczarski, spokesman with Virginia Tech.

Owczarski was present in the heated tent erected next to the Potomac Yard Metro station on Wednesday, as Ted Leonsis, majority owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, along with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, announced plans to build a new home arena as part of a 70-acre entertainment district.

Youngkin said having the global headquarters of Monumental Sports and Entertainments adjacent to the new campus would be “opening the doors for unique partnerships, between Monumental and Virginia Tech, focused on entrepreneurship, sports analytics, immersive technologies and innovative new businesses and media strategies.”

“Virginia Tech has a tremendous amount of expertise in digital technology, sports analytics and we’ve also got hospitality and tourism management, which coincides nicely with entertainment and the conference center,” Owczarski said. “Companies are attracted to that, because they’re looking to solve and address multiple needs, especially when the project is big.”

Five years ago, in November 2018, Amazon listed Virginia Tech’s $1 billion investment to build an “innovation campus” in Alexandria as a major factor in its decision to bring its second headquarters to Northern Virginia.

Ground was broken in September 2021, months after Boeing contributed $50 million to the new Virginia Tech project. Owczarski said construction should be completed in 2024, and become fully operational by December of next year.

Construction of Virginia Tech's Innovation Campus
Construction of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus continued Wednesday, during the announcement of a proposed entertainment district at Potomac Yard. (Courtesy Virginia Tech)

Innovation goals keep changing

While the still-in-the-works campus “is focused on computer science, computer engineering — that technical talent that companies like Amazon and Boeing need,” by definition, the Innovation Campus will continue to morph.

“Something big happened right next door. Could that change the way we think five, 10, 20 years from now? Of course. That’s vision. That’s leadership. That’s what people do, who care about the broader community,” Owczarski said.

During Wednesday’s announcement, Leonsis, a former senior executive with AOL that helped build the company into a global phenomenon, said proximity and relationships with local universities like Virginia Tech are vital.

“We understand the importance of being able to graduate the young, and have them want to be in the community, and stay,” Leonsis said.

Owczarski said future graduates will be prepared and have options to join the workforce.

“Digital technology, digital expertise is pervasive in absolutely everything that we do. It’s touched every sector of business. It can be applied to everything from selling tickets to giving your coaching staff data that’s been analyzed about the opponent, when there’s 78% humidity, on three quarters of a full moon. That’s the kind of world in which we live,” he said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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