Alexandria City Council members are crying foul over the proposed makeup of the Virginia Stadium Authority, which would finance construction of the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena and entertainment district.
Both the proposed Virginia House and Senate bills establishing the authority stipulate that the nine-member Virginia Stadium Authority board would be comprised of six members appointed by the governor and three from Alexandria.
That doesn’t sit well with the entire city Council, whose members say that the city needs a larger presence at the table.
Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and City Council Members Alyia Gaskins, Canek Aguirre, Kirk McPike, John Taylor Chapman, and Sarah Bagley all want more representation on the Virginia Stadium Authority. With North Potomac Yard poised to become the future home of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, the development poses economic, transportation, public safety, housing and other challenges that directly impact the city.
“Given the bonds are backed 50/50 by the city and state, we believe the board composition should be even as well,” Wilson told ALXnow. “It’s the Authority that owns the arena, not the city.”
Wilson said that the city is conducting constant conversations with both houses of the state legislature regarding the bills. Virginia Senate Majority Leader Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) introduced the senate version of the bill on Jan. 19, and is now pending in the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations. That same day, House of Delegates Appropriations Chair Del. Luke E. Torian (D-52) introduced the house version of the bill, and it is now pending in the House Committee on Appropriations.
Surovell told ALXnow that there is wiggle room to change the bills, and that the legislation at this point is “far from final.”
In the meantime, residents against the proposal will protest outside the Potomac Yard Target store at 6 a.m. on Friday before embarking on a “lobbying and rally day” outside the General Assembly building in Richmond.
Jackson, who is running for mayor, says that the governor’s office should have no more than two seats on the board and that Arlington should not be represented for the North Potomac Yard proposal.
“Whatever the number ends up being, I believe the percentages/seats should allow Alexandria to have more representation,” Jackson told ALXnow. “That the ratio of House and Senate seats would still have close to even cast. That the Governor should have only one-to-two, and that Arlington should not have a seat at this table.”
McPike said in a town hall meeting late last month that he doesn’t “love that breakdown.”
“I would like to see our delegation to Richmond push for a five-four split, maybe even a four-five split,” he said.
The town hall was part of a three-month public engagement process that the city is currently undertaking to inform residents on the development.
McPike continued, “We want to be the ones to make this decision, not Richmond, that if this is going to happen or not happen, it needs to be because it fits or doesn’t fit the needs of the city.”
Aguirre told ALXnow that the Potomac Yard arena deal is “very fragile,” and that many potential pitfalls spell trouble. He said that the Authority should be made up of representatives from the state legislature, the governor’s office and the city.
“That’s a non starter for me, the way it’s written right now,” Aguirre said of the bills. “I mean, six appointments for the governor, three for the city. That doesn’t fly with me.”
Aguirre spoke with us after announcing his reelection campaign to the Alexandria Democratic Committee on Monday. He said that the deal is an overall positive for the city, but that it has to make financial sense.
“We can’t be stuck holding a bag with a bunch of debt,” Aguirre said. “I think that’s there’s still some questions around that. I just want to say this deal is very fragile. There’s a lot of different pitfalls.”
Chapman said that there should be an evenly split board, and that council members should serve on it.
“I believe the composition of the Board should be even,” he told ALXnow.
Bagley says that Alexandria is a partner in the venture and “any potential authority composition should reflect that partnership.”
Gaskins, who is also running for mayor, said that the Virginia Stadium Authority board should have five members from Alexandria.
“Alexandrians will be the people most directly impacted by this project and it is important that it is reflected in the makeup of the board,” she told ALXnow. “I believe that Alexandria should have majority representation with five seats.”
Gaskins added that the city’s representatives on the board should reflect a diversity of opinions.
“As such, I think it would be helpful to have a combination of people, including community members, small business leaders and council or city government officials,” she said.
According to the legislation’s summary:
Establishes the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority as a political subdivision charged with financing the construction of a sports and entertainment campus. The Authority is composed of nine members, six of whom are appointed by the Governor and three of whom are appointed by the governing body of the City of Alexandria. Each appointed member is subject to specific criteria for appointment. The bill entitles the Authority to the following revenues: (i) sales tax revenues from construction and transactions on the campus, defined in the bill, but certain revenues that current law dedicates to transportation and education are excluded; (ii) all pass-through entity tax revenues and corporate income tax revenues from income generated by the company, defined in the bill, or any professional sports team or any affiliates as well as in the development and construction of the campus; and (iii) all personal income tax revenues from income generated through employment and business activity on the campus. It also authorizes the City of Alexandria to appropriate tax revenues to the Authority.
The revenues shall be deposited in the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority Financing Fund, created in the bill, from which the Authority will deposit revenues into priority accounts for Authority revenues, debt service, subordinate debt service, reserves, and capital expenditures and maintenance. If the Authority determines that all such accounts are sufficiently funded, the bill directs the Authority to issue the excess to the Commonwealth and the City of Alexandria if so provided for in any bond or financing agreements.
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