Design & Development

Leonsis sheds more light on MSE’s Virginia arena vision

Featured image credit: JBG SMITH

Ted Leonsis, founder and chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE), has defended the proposed relocation of the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the NBA’s Washington Wizards to a new arena in Alexandria, Virginia.

Last month, MSE, which owns the Wizards and Capitals, announced that it had reached the framework of an agreement for a public-private partnership to create a new entertainment district in Alexandria that would house a new arena for the two franchises.

The Capitals and Wizards would relocate to Virginia as early as 2028 if the proposal is finalised, pending legislative approval and completion of definitive documents. Alexandria is located just over eight miles from Washington, D.C.

As well as an “industry-leading arena”, the district would house a new Monumental campus featuring the global headquarters for MSE, a Monumental Sports Network media studio, the Wizards’ practice facility, a performing arts venue, and an expanded esports facility.

The Capitals and Wizards have played at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. since 1997. It has been reported that Monumental is seeking $600m (£473m/€555m) in public funds for a major renovation of the arena.

In a letter addressed to fans and supporters of the two teams, Leonsis said he acknowledges the concerns of some locals in Washington, D.C. but reiterated his stance that relocation to Virginia is the “best decision”.

Leonsis said the relocation will accomplish two critical objectives: provide fans with the “best experience in all of sports” and establish a best-in-class set of facilities for athletes and employees.

According to Leonsis, the new arena in Virginia would offer improved lines of sight from all seats, enhanced in-game entertainment and hospitality, better sound systems, easy access to fast Wi-Fi and 5G, and the “highest clarity” video boards.

MSE is continuing to work with the City of Alexandria and the Commonwealth of Virginia on the completion of definitive documents. The project is under consideration through various legislative processes at the Virginia General Assembly and the Alexandria City Council.

Leonsis confirmed that all involved parties have undertaken an extensive community engagement process, which will allow all stakeholders to have an input on the project. Traffic analyses are also underway, while meetings with a proposed architect have taken place, although Leonsis did not confirm which company MSE is in talks with.

Leonsis also pointed out the level of existing support in Virginia for the Capitals and Wizards as a reason for the proposed relocation. He noted that between the two teams, 44% of fans who attend games are from Virginia, 41% are from Maryland, and 15% are from Washington, D.C.

“I disagree with claims that this project would move the teams in a way that will reduce accessibility for fans,” he said. “The entertainment district will be 4.5 miles from Capital One Arena, 2.6 miles from the Washington, D.C. border, under one mile from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, one of the most accessible major metropolitan airports in the United States, and a couple hundred feet from the newly opened Potomac Yard-Virginia Tech Metro Station.

“Significant efforts are being made to study and optimise transportation options. The entertainment district will be in a vibrant and central location for our fans, accessible by Metro, car, with 2,500 underground parking spaces, dedicated rideshare drop off, water taxi, walking, running, and bike trail.”

Leonsis added that the entertainment district in Potomac Yard will require no upfront cash commitment by the Commonwealth of Virginia, with no new taxes to be imposed on residents or businesses in Virginia. The arena will be owned by the Commonwealth, which will use its AAA credit rating to issue bonds to raise funds for construction.

The bonds used to pay for construction will be paid back through lease payments by MSE, user fees for patrons of the entertainment district, and taxes generated by the district. MSE will contribute over $400m towards the project.

Leonsis added that MSE would be open to the opportunity of maintaining a presence in downtown Washington, D.C. by continuing to manage Capital One Arena until 2028 and beyond.

Since taking over majority control of Capital One Arena in 2010, Leonsis has invested over $200m in the building – more than the original cost of $170m to build the arena in 1997. In the last five years alone, Monumental has invested or planned investments that total well over $125m – and MSE has said those green-lit investments will continue to be implemented.