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Former Alexandria mayor joins anti-Potomac Yard arena activists in Richmond

From left: Adrien Lopez, Allison Silberberg, Jim Good, Senator Louise Lucas, Andrew Macdonald, John Patrick and Boyd Walker. The caption on the cake reads “Senator Louise Lucas chomps the GlennDome” (photo courtesy Allison Silberberg)

(Updated 2/23) While pro-Potomac Yard arena advocates and lobbyists are making the rounds in Richmond, a group of locals are also knocking on doors in the legislature fighting against the arena.

Former Mayor Allison Silberberg joined others from the Coalition to Stop the Potomac Yard Arena in Richmond

Silberberg said the group has been traveling to Richmond by the busload to meet with legislators and senior staff.

“The Coalition to Stop the Arena is a grassroots effort,” Silberberg said. “It’s regular residents who are trying to raise strong concerns about traffic impacts that cannot be dismissed with a traffic study.”

Silberberg said the group’s two main concerns are transportation and the risk to the Commonwealth of Virginia if the arena fails to meet certain financial goals. Alexandria and Virginia could be on the hook for the $1 billion on public bonds to fund the project if spending and tax revenue don’t meet expectations.

“The arena proposal would create financial risks for the Commonwealth of Virginia, in large part because the $1.5 billion bond would put the Commonwealth’s bonding capacity and bond rating at risk,” Silberberg said.

The Coalition’s activism comes at a perilous time for the arena deal. There’s been some positive news about the arena — GMU released a study showing it could be a boon for workforce housing — but most of the arena headlines have been negative, from labor unions uniting in opposition to the arena plans to Sen. Louise Lucas removing the arena plans from a hearing in the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee.

Silberberg said the reception in Richmond has been “diverse” depending on who the group has spoken to, but so far all of the meetings have been cordial.

Silberberg said most in the group are not opposed to development in Potomac Yard, but that they want to see the area emerge as a technology corridor like the new Virginia Tech campus, the plans Silberberg said were discussed in city leadership before the announcement of the Potomac Yard arena.

“It’s a big deal for all of us to take time from work and family to go down there, but it’s a huge issue that would affect our beloved city,” Silberberg said. “We are up against huge money and huge forces.”

The last day of the legislative session is March 9.

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