A deal that would move the Washington Wizards and Capitals to a new arena in Alexandria continues to take heat with Monumental Sports and Entertainment jumping to address concerns from both D.C.’s mayor and Virginia Senate Democrats Monday.
It comes days after a positive signal for the proposal, when legislation clearing the way for the move to Potomac Yard advanced in the Virginia House Appropriations Committee on Friday.
The bill will go before the House floor before being put to a vote in the Senate — where the bill seemed to hit a sizable snag on Monday. Despite the new hurdles, a spokeswoman for Monumental Sports responded to the pushback and said the company hasn’t given up on relocating the teams.
What Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas says: ‘It’s dead’
Sen. L. Louise Lucas, the chair of the powerful Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee, announced over the weekend legislation clearing the way for the Monumental move to Alexandria would not receive a hearing in her committee.
She later told reporters that as far as she’s concerned the measure is “dead,” while speaking about her decision to not docket the bill.
“The Governor refuses to negotiate and simply believes this co-equal branch of government should rubber stamp the ‘Glenn Dome,’” Lucas said. “The proposal relies on the Commonwealth’s moral obligation that if the project’s revenues are insufficient to cover the debt, taxpayers are on the hook to bail out this project.”
Lucas and Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell said Youngkin did not bring Democrats into negotiations about bringing the teams to Alexandria soon enough.
“At every turn, the Governor thinks that he should be able to use the executive branch to enrich his friends,” Lucas said.
Docketing the bill killed the Senate version of the legislation — while another bill continues to make progress in the Democrat-controlled House of Delegates.
After that bill moves through the House, it will need to pass in the Senate before reaching the governor’s desk.
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What Mayor Muriel Bowser says: ‘We want our teams’
On Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser commented on the ongoing battle over the team’s home base Monday, while announcing the city’s plans to open a center staffed with police and other public servants in Chinatown.
Bowser said Monumental Sports has made more money at Capital One Arena in the last three years than they’ve ever made before.
“These events are packed, concerts, boxing and the games, even though we don’t have teams that are winning,” she said. “Monumental Sports is doing just fine here. That’s not to say that they don’t have legitimate concerns, and a legitimate expectation that we address those concerns.”
She also addressed an op-ed she penned in The Washington Post last week in which she wrote that the city intends to “enforce the leases with Monumental that require the Wizards and Capitals to play at the arena through 2047 and the Mystics to play in Congress Heights through 2037.”
“We want our teams, and so we want to be very clear about that,” Bowser said Monday in reference to the article. “We also want to be clear that we and I have a responsibility to do what’s best for D.C. taxpayers, and we are prepared to work hand in hand with Monumental.”
In the op-ed, Bowser also said that the “city owns the land under the Capital One Arena and will own the building should Monumental break its lease.”
Monumental has said it will pay off the bonds connected to playing at Capital One to allow the teams to leave earlier than planned. The mayor said even if Monumental pays up, she won’t use the money to pay off the bonds.
When asked about whether D.C. can do that, Bowser said she couldn’t comment on the city’s legal strategy.
What Monumental Sports says: ‘Focused 100% on Virginia’
During a Monday afternoon news conference, a Monumental spokeswoman said the company remains optimistic about the Virginia move.
“We’re encouraged by what happened in the House and we believe that when the House bill moves to the Senate, we’ll continue our conversations,” Monica Dixon said on behalf of Monumental Monday.
She reiterated the company’s stance that it can end the Capital One lease early, despite the mayor’s earlier comments.
“We’re focused 100% on Virginia, and believe that if we have the opportunity to share information and talk about the benefits of this proposal that it will pass and we’ll be able to move forward with the Virginia plan,” Dixon said.
In reference to the mayor’s comments hinting at possible legal action against the company, Dixon said: “I think if this is something that results in litigation, we ought to let that process play out. I hope it won’t. But we do feel confident about the lease we signed and the amendments.”
When asked about the mayor’s comments about the team’s profits at Capital One, Dixon said there’s a difference between “profit and value.”
“Our valuation has certainly gone up, just like many other sports ownerships across the country, and that has nothing to do with where we play,” she said. “It has everything to do with the value that Ted (Leonsis) has created in Monumental Sports.”
Dixon also said the company is “encouraged by the House vote” and addressed some comments from Lucas criticizing the proposal.
“We’re eager to engage with the Senate Finance Committee members and all the legislators to make sure that they have all the information they need to evaluate this proposal because we believe that the proposal will be incredibly beneficial, not to just our fans, our players and the sporting community, but to the city of Alexandria and the commonwealth,” Dixon said.
When asked about how the company will address concerns from Senate Democrats when the bill crosses over, Dixon said “I’m confident that we can get to an understanding that will allow the project to be considered.”
After the proposed move was initially announced, team owner Ted Leonsis suggested Monumental may continuing hosting events at Capital One Arena and move the WNBA’s Washington Mystics to the venue. Moving the women’s team is something the mayor has spoken out against.
“All of that only happens if the mayor and the city think that is the right thing for the city,” Dixon said. “We offered it because we believe in downtown, and we know we can we can bring people downtown for those events.”