As new SE arena’s future takes shape, Events DC hangs up a ‘now hiring’ sign

WASHINGTON — With the first components of the RFK re-imagining coming online this spring and D.C. United’s new stadium set to open in July, it’s an exciting time for sports infrastructure development in the District. But there’s another major structure set to open this year, one which may have more immediate and lasting impact on the Southeast location’s residents and community.

The new 4,200-seat Entertainment and Sports Arena is still on track to open on time in early September just 13 months after groundbreaking, Events DC announced at a community meeting this week. Situated on the St. Elizabeths hospital campus, the building will serve as the future practice facility for the Washington Wizards and home court of the Washington Mystics and new NBA G-League affiliate Capital City Go-Go. But professional basketball will only comprise about 40 percent of the overall programming.

“We’ve also focused on esports,” Greg O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC told WTOP. “We’re focused on boxing, mixed martial arts.”

To that end, the first announced event at the new arena is the Red Bull Conquest National Finals, the championship event of a new national esports tournament circuit featuring popular franchises, such as Street Fighter and Tekken. But before any other events are announced, there’s still the matter of finishing construction and staffing the arena for the upcoming seasons.

“The construction effort obviously has been going on strong, but we’re also ramping up operationally,” said O’Dell.

They’re looking for painters and plumbers, all manner of skilled laborers to finish the job at hand. But they’re also holding a job fair May 7-10 for operations, security, and entry level customer service positions. Prospective applicants can preregister on site at the RISE Demonstration Center from Apr. 13 to May 4.

At roughly 50 percent of construction completion, the project has paid out $1.2 million in wages to D.C. residents. It has also exceeded the targets set in place to stress local and hyperlocal hiring, a practice O’Dell hopes to be able to continue to improve upon through the final few months before the project goes online.

“We’re proud of fact that we’ve hired a lot of CBE contractors, about 66 percent, so we’ve exceeded our goal for this project. About 37 percent of the workers are District residents and almost one out of four of them are coming from Ward 7 and Ward 8,” said O’Dell.

“Obviously we always want more District residents, but we think it’s a strong foundation that we hope to also replicate on the operations side as well.”

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