Design & Development

Virginia lawmakers at odds over arena funding

Featured image credit: JBG SMITH

Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s plans for a new arena in Alexandria, Virginia have hit a bump in the road after lawmakers in the state were split on the proposed funding for the venue.

In December, MSE, the parent company of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals, announced that it had reached the framework of an agreement for a public-private partnership to create an entertainment district in Alexandria that would house a new arena for the two franchises.

Should the proposal become finalised, pending legislative approval and completion of definitive documents, the Capitals and Wizards could relocate to Virginia in 2028. The two teams currently play at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., just over eight miles from Alexandria.

Last month, Ted Leonsis, founder and chairman of MSE, defended the proposed relocation of the two teams as he shed more light on the arena vision. The arena would reportedly cost $2bn (£1.6bn/€1.9bn) to build and Leonsis has said that the entertainment district will require no upfront cash commitment by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Over the weekend, it emerged that the Virginia Senate has not included funding for the new arena in its budget plan, although the House of Delegates has. The latter’s plan includes plans to establish a sports and entertainment authority, which is needed to secure the funding.

L. Louise Lucas, a Democratic senator, expressed her opposition to the arena plans last week and yesterday (Sunday) she left out funding for the project when introducing the Senate’s budget.

“I feel like Metro has not done a good job of managing their resources,” she told the Washington Post. “They need to get their act together … I decided not to put a dime in, and I know that makes 12 [Senate] members from Northern Virginia unhappy, but guess what? It’s a new day in the commonwealth.”

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.

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.