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Mayor: Potomac Yard arena deal needs renovation fund to keep facility updated

Rendering of concert venue at Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

If Alexandria’s tentative deal to see a sports arena and entertainment district built in north Potomac Yard, it must include a rehabilitation and renovation fund, Mayor Justin Wilson said Monday night.

Wilson told the Alexandria Democratic Committee that the agreement, which is still in its initial planning stages with Monumental Sports, needs a funding source to account for the wear and tear that time and throngs of annual visitors will have on the arena and numerous planned amenities. The renovation fund is included in Alexandria’s deal with Monumental Sports.

Wilson said that no such rehabilitation and renovation fund was included in D.C.’s deal with Monumental Sports when the Capital One Arena in D.C. opened in 1997. He also said that it was no accident that D.C. recently approved a fund to maintain Nationals Park.

“I’ve gotten a lot of emails about a lot of bad sports deals around the country, and I think we have tried to use those as a lesson,” Wilson said. “One of the things that I think we’ve tried to learn really from some sports deals here in this region is first of all, obviously having a long term lease, having relocation provisions that prevent the team from going away.”

Wilson said one of the lessons is not repeating the Capital One Arena mistake.

“What happened in Capital One, which open the year I graduated high school, and I’m not that old, was that there was never any funding source or funding plan for how to renovate and rehabilitate an arena over time,” Wilson said.

On transportation, Wilson said congestion at the arena will be lessened by patrons using thousands of available parking spaces at neighboring Metro station parking lots and arriving via Metro and shuttle buses.

The deal is projected to generate 30,000 jobs in Alexandria, as well as bring in the Monumental Sports headquarters with about 600 professional employees, the arena itself that would house the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, a practice facility, concert venue, television studios, hotels and apartments.

“A big part of the vision is how to use those spaces as a way to get people into the area and then use transit in different ways to get people on to the site for events,” he said. “We’ll have a lot more planning to go as we as we determine whether this use is compatible.”

Wilson also said that one of the advantages of the arena property being owned by the Virginia Stadium Authority is that if the teams decide to relocate at the end of the 40-year lease, the facility would be owned by the city.

“We could knock down and build something else,” Wilson said. “We would have the resources as well as the ownership and control of the property to be able to do what the community would like to do.”

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