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Gov. Youngkin ‘befuddled’ as Potomac Yard arena plan is in death throes in Richmond

A visibly frustrated Gov. Glenn Youngkin made a last-minute appeal to the Virginia legislature to support the Potomac Yard arena ahead of the General Assembly adjourning on Saturday.

“I believe the Senate is about to make a colossal mistake,” Youngkin said. “We came together over many months to represent the very best interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to do it in a way that could put Virginia in the position for a big win in the Commonwealth.”

Youngkin said the revenue from the Potomac Yard arena could go back into transportation priorities like I-81, toll relief, and Metro funding. Youngkin had signaled interest in working with Northern Virginia to support Metro through a budget crisis, an outcome that is uncertain with the Potomac Yard arena bargaining chip off the table.

“The Senate refused to give the single largest economic development deal in Virginia’s history any serious, meaningful consideration, breaking their own long-standing tradition in the process and avoiding the broad bipartisan support in both houses,” Youngkin said. “This bill would pass.”

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Potomac Yard arena proposal in Richmond.

Yesterday, Senate Finance and Appropriations Chairwoman L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) told the Washington Post that the Potomac Yard arena won’t be in the budget compromise.

The Potomac Yard arena development plans involve the creation of a Virginia Stadium Authority to finance the construction of the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena and entertainment district. Creation of that authority, though, is contingent on it being included in the state budget.

“I’m an optimist,” said Youngkin. “A true optimist. I will never stop fighting for Virginia’s success. I believe our Senate and General Assembly have a chance to stand up and do what’s right. They have a chance to assess this one-of-a-kind, first-of-its-kind, opportunity on its merits. It befuddles me that we’re not spending today talking about how to deliver it and we’re instead trying to convince our General Assembly to do what’s right.”

Feeling momentum from the stalemate in Richmond, the Coalition to Stop the Potomac Yard Arena held a press conference outside the Potomac Yard Metro station.

The anti-arena effort is led by former Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald, who said that his group is going to now prepare for anticipation of Youngkin calling back a special session to focus on the issue in April.

“We’re going to now mobilize all of the volunteers,” Macdonald said. “We are going to be making it very clear to the General Assembly and everyone else and to the public just how bad a deal this is for everyone. And so we’re going to continue to work extremely hard over the next few weeks to put this project to bed.”

Former Mayor Allison Silberberg thanked Sen. Lucas for her “courage and leadership.”

“We thank her and all those who have stood strong,” Silberberg said. “So, now we need to see it through and make sure that this deal is really dead.”

City Council candidate Charlotte Scherer wants the General Assembly to kill the arena deal.

“Momentum is on our side,” Scherer said. “I think that the General Assembly is going to do the right thing and vote down the creation of a sports authority to issue the bonds and by doing that, that would effectively stop the arena.”

In a release, the Coalition said:

The Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard today applauded the Virginia General Assembly for keeping Governor Youngkin’s proposal to build an arena at Potomac Yard for Monumental Sports & entertainment out of the state budget.

The Coalition is pleased that the General Assembly listened to the residents of Alexandria and citizens throughout the Commonwealth. While there are still many hurdles to overcome before Governor Youngkin’s vanity project is consigned to the dustbin of history, the momentum is clearly against him and his billionare enablers. We urge the Governor to heed the bipartisan voices urging him to abandon this deal and not needlessly prolong his efforts into the veto session in April. There are many more important priorities for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

We are deeply indebted to the many champions who have raised their voices in opposition to this deal, including State Senator Louise Lucas, Don’t Mute DC, the Northern Virginia Labor Federation, UNITE HERE Local 25, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, National Consumers League, Sports Fans Coalition, the Sierra Club’s Potomac River Chapter, and the extensive network of volunteers across the region who contributed to this grassroots effort.

The Coalition will continue to advocate at local and state levels to oppose this project until a final decision has been made and Governor Youngkin’s monumental mistake is stopped once and for all.

Vernon Miles and James Cullum contributed to this story

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