‘This is monumental’: Capitals, Wizards owners partner up with Virginia for proposed arena, entertainment district in Alexandria

A rendering of the Entertainment District at Potomac Yard features a new Capitals and Wizards arena and Monumental Sports’ new global business headquarters.
A rendering of the Entertainment District at Potomac Yards features a new Capitals and Wizards arena and Monumental Sports’ new global business headquarters. (Courtesy JBG Smith)
A photo rendering of the Entertainment District at Potomac Yards includes a new Capitals and Wizards arena, a performing arts venue and an expanded esports facility. (Courtesy JBG Smith)
Entertainment District at Potomac Yards
A photo rendering of the Entertainment District at Potomac Yards includes a new Capitals and Wizards arena, a performing arts venue and an expanded esports facility. (Courtesy JBG Smith)
A layout of the Potomac Yards project that includes a new arena for the Wizards and Capitals. (Courtesy JBG Smith)
A rendering of the Entertainment District at Potomac Yard features a new Capitals and Wizards arena and Monumental Sports’ new global business headquarters.
Entertainment District at Potomac Yards

Virginia officials and the owner of the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards gathered Wednesday to announce plans that could move the teams from D.C.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson and Ted Leonsis — the majority partner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Wizards and the Capitals — made the announcement across from the Potomac Yard Metro station, the area where the proposed development would be located.

If approved, it would be more than just a new arena for the NHL and NBA teams. Youngkin said it would include a new world headquarters for Monumental Sports, as well as a state-of-the-art media studio for the network, a Wizards practice facility, a performing arts venue and an expanded esports facility.

“This is monumental,” said Youngkin, of the partnership, which if completed, is expected to have both teams move to the arena in 2028.

The entertainment district would be located near Amazon’s new HQ2 development in the National Landing area

Leonsis said that the plan will allow Alexandria to become a “supercommunity,” akin to one of the 10 most prominent cities on the planet.

“Our commitment will be to build really iconic, fan-centric businesses,” Leonsis said, adding that he wants Monumental Sports to collaborate based on its commitment to the D.C. area.

Leonsis said the location, on the site of a former rail yard near Route 1 in Alexandria, is perfect for the project.

“When we first came out here, and I saw 70 acres, and the ability to start with a clean slate,” Leonsis said he knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, given the proximity to the nation’s capital. “It really is a very, very romantic, but also pragmatic vision that we have, that we can’t do anywhere else.”

Expanding into Alexandria

The plan received support from Wilson, the Alexandria mayor, but it must still be approved by the state’s General Assembly and the city council members, who were in attendance during the Wednesday news conference.

“It is a great morning to be an Alexandrian,” Wilson said.

Wilson said this project provides a chance to come back from the economic challenges of 2020 and the pandemic.

The new development will also sit adjacent to Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus in the Alexandria section of National Landing.

“The Commonwealth will now be home to two professional sports teams, a new corporate headquarters, and over 30,000 new jobs,” Youngkin said.

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said the institution is excited to see plans that bring Monumental to Potomac Yard.

“We believe in the great potential of this location, and are eager to welcome others who are passionate about this community and building an exciting and vibrant future together,” Sands said, in a statement.

Wilson said the entertainment district will enable families to make memories.

“It is the experience of bringing your child to their first sporting event or their first concert — go see, in person, someone doing something better than almost anyone else in the world,” Wilson said.

Alexandria officials said the city’s $2 billion investment — paid partially in bonds issued by a newly proposed Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority — is expected to boost economic growth for the region, generating $12 billion of economic impact over the coming decades. Millions are expected to support affordable housing, housing assistance programs, transportation and education.

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.

“We have reached a very clear understanding, really subject to finalizing the General Assembly’s work,” Youngkin said in an interview with The Associated Press, noting that a key bipartisan legislative committee endorsed the incentive structure earlier this week.

The city plans to begin “an extensive community engagement process, including a series of community meetings and workshops, which will kick off in early 2024,” according to a city news release.

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

The rest of the approximately $1.5 billion 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.

There are no proposed tax increases for local residents.

“Throughout its history, Monumental Sports has undergone remarkable growth. And, with this public-private partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Alexandria and JBG SMITH, we anticipate an even more dynamic future,” Leonsis said. “We believe this expansion would enable us to uphold our commitment to building an exceptional experience for our fans, employees and partners.”

Challenges to the Potomac Yard move

This move to Virginia isn’t set in stone, however.

Gerren Price, president and CEO of DowntownDC Business Improvement District, said Tuesday that getting approval from the state and city could prove difficult.

“We recognize that Monumental must consider offers from other jurisdictions in order to make the best possible business decision for their operations, but we strongly believe that keeping these teams in the city will yield the highest regular attendance of any site in the region,” Price said.

Majority Leader Elect Del. Charniele Herring, who represents the city in the state’s general assembly, said that this project is not yet complete and that voices in and around the area still need to be heard so that the most vulnerable in the community are not impacted.

“More importantly, I am encouraged that the conversations have taken place not only about the project being a valuable economic engine for us, but also about prioritizing our values as a community in its building and its implementation,” Herring said.

Herring said she has also been looking for bipartisan legislation that is considerate of the Alexandria community’s needs.

“We must ensure that plans that are baked and do a deal that updates our transportation and infrastructure,” she said, adding that it is “necessary for the success of this project.”

Sen. Mark Warner, an Alexandria resident, said that this deal structure was worthy of celebration, but similar deals have fallen apart before.

“This will be the time we bring professional sports to Virginia, but it won’t be the first time we’ve tried,” Warner said Wednesday.

He added that all parties will need to commit to hearing concerns and working toward doing what’s best for the broader community, to which Leonsis said he is committed.

“I’m very, very, very focused on being a good neighbor,” Leonsis said. “Having that personal touch is vital to make sure that you are listening, that you’re hearing, that you’re empathetic, and understand what is going on in the community.”

He assured that his organization will do the “right things in the right way to all the communities that we serve.”

What about Capital One Arena?

As for Capital One Arena, Monumental said the goal is to continue investing in the arena and update the building into one that could host up to 20,000 people and continue to host events, such as concerts and collegiate competitions.

“Monumental envisions Capital One Arena as maintaining its position as a vital and vibrant point of connection in downtown D.C. Moreover, in the future, the Monumental team would be able to secure more family shows and accommodate annual bookings and mini-residencies that require long-term planning, which is currently not possible with the seasonal changes from the NBA and NHL’s game schedules,” the organization said.

The WNBA’s Washington Mystics, which are also owned by Monumental Sports, were not included in the proposal but could find their new home at Capital One Arena should this plan be realized.

“Monumental is excited about the potential opportunity to update Capital One Arena to be the future home of the Washington Mystics, increasing the company’s investment in the Mystics, creating a game day experience tailored specifically for the Mystics, and allowing this championship-winning team to continue to grow the franchise and its fan base,” the group said.

Monumental Sports said that since majority owner Leonsis took ownership, he’s invested “over $200 million in the building — more than the original cost of $170 million to build the arena in 1997.”

“In the last five years alone, Monumental has invested or planned investments that total well over $125 million — and those greenlit investments will continue to be implemented, ensuring fans continue to receive a best-in-class experience at Capital One Arena,” Monumental Sports said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson made their “last and best offer” Tuesday evening after a plan was approved Monday by 12 state lawmakers on Virginia’s Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission. That deal is critical, according to Price with Downtown DC BID, for the long-term success of downtown D.C. and the entire city.

“Downtown DC is the District’s economic engine that provides revenue resources to support important programs in the city. Mr. Leonsis and Monumental Sports have been critical partners in keeping our downtown thriving, especially after the pandemic,” Bowser said in a news release. “The modernization of the Capital One Arena will be an invaluable investment for continued success and our future prosperity.”

More information about the project is available online.

The Associated Press and WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up