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JUST IN: Virginia House of Delegates passes Potomac Yard arena bill

Rendering of outdoor plaza at Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

(Updated at 9 p.m.) Virginia’s House of Delegates voted to pass the arena bill 59-40, sending the proposal to an uncertain future in the Senate.

Earlier this week, the Democrat-controlled Virginia Senate voted not to table the bill on the arena’s stadium authority for a hearing.

The proposal to build a new arena at Potomac Yard for the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals has met with a mixed reception.

“I’m pleased that the House of Delegates has allowed the community conversation on the potential of this economic development opportunity to continue” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “I look forward to further engagement with legislators in RIchmond and residents of Alexandria.”

Many local leaders say the proposal would be a boon for Alexandria’s economy and development plans for Potomac Yard, while other Alexandria representatives and protestors against the arena highlighted concerns that the new arena would create more traffic than either the local roads or Metro station can handle, among other concerns.

Alexandria Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker announced today that she would vote against the Potomac Yard arena legislation.

Bennett-Parker said that the bill to create the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority and Financing Fund “currently falls disproportionately on our residents,” who will see residential property tax increases. She also said that the transportation funds needed to bring the $2 billion entertainment district to Potomac Yard by 2028 have not been defined.

“Despite the Governor’s recently released transportation study, there remain a lot of concerns and questions,” Bennett-Parker wrote in an email. “Besides the effects of the proposal on Route 1 and surrounding roads, and the critical, long-term investment needed for WMATA regardless of this proposal, it is unclear what the Commonwealth is actually committing to in terms of transportation funds.”

Bennett-Parker, a former vice mayor of Alexandria, said that she has been “continually frustrated” by Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration’s lack of forthcomingness.

“The Administration has failed to share important details and failed to give good-faith guarantees for workers and worker protections,” she wrote. “Given the significant impacts the proposed entertainment district would have on our community, I cannot in good faith vote for this without more information on the financing of the project, a more sustained commitment to WMATA funding, state-funded transportation improvements to mitigate its effects, protections for workers, displacement protections for Arlandria residents, and appropriate representation of Alexandrians on the Authority.”

Bennett-Parker also joined her former colleagues by stating that the city needs more representation on the proposed 15-member Virginia Stadium Authority board. The House version of the bill would have three members on the board from Alexandria.

“That is unacceptable for a project that would so dramatically affect our community,” Bennett-Parker wrote.

Monumental Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Capitals and Wizards, put out a release celebrating the vote in the House of Delegates.

““We are so encouraged by the bipartisan support for this monumental opportunity to create jobs and generate revenue that will benefit the city, the region, and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Monumental’s Chief Administrative Officer Monica Dixon. “This is a big step forward in the process, but we know it is not the last step. We believe this is the right project for Alexandria, for Virginia, and for our fans, players, coaches, and employees. We look forward to working with the leadership, members, and staff of the Virginia Senate to answer their questions and earn their support for this transformative economic opportunity.”

One of the groups opposing the new arena, the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard, said despite the vote they still believe the momentum is against the arena.

“It has been exactly two months since Governor Youngkin and Ted Leonsis stood on stage in Alexandria to announce this project,” Potomac Yard resident and co-founder of the Coalition, Adrien Lopez, said in a release. “Despite a lot of flashy presentations and social media posts, serious questions have piled up and opposition is growing. We believe this idea is fatally flawed and the Senate should pursue other important matters before the Commonwealth.”

Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to break ground on the project by next year, which means a swift turnaround with approved legislation in both houses of the General Assembly. On Monday, however, Virginia President Pro Tempore Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-18) tweeted that the bill is not on the Senate Finance and Appropriations docket because it is “not ready for prime time.”

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

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