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Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas says Monumental Sports owner Ted Leonsis can fund the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena project

Virginia State Sen. Louise Lucas (D-18) says Monumental Sports and Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis can afford to pay for the entire $2 billion Potomac Yard arena project, as well as supporting transportation and other associated infrastructure projects.

“Anything having to do with enriching billionaires, they need to pay for themselves,” Lucas told ALXnow. “They can proffer anything they want to. They can build the arena and make a profit. They could complete the roads and also provide the perennial upkeep.”

Lucas continued, “A lot of people who are doing developments they do proffers and they take care of the roads. They offer to take care of schools, they offer to take care of other things. This is rich people still wanting to get rich without paying for it.”

Lucas said that she was blindsided by news in December that Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin reached a deal with Monumental Sports and Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis to move the Washington Capitals and Wizards from D.C. to a new arena in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood. She said that the deal was presented in such a rush that the legislature didn’t have time to vet the plan, or even thoroughly understand it.

“I mean, all the nuances of a project that major, you need more than a day of somebody telling you this is what we’re doing, we’ve already made the announcement and here we go,” Lucas said.

Lucas is president pro tempore of the Virginia State Senate, and, as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, refused to let the approved House version of the arena bill out of her committee and into the state budget, effectively stopping it from landing on the Governor’s desk for approval.

Youngkin held a press conference earlier this month where he called the Senate’s budget a colossal mistake.

“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 called the arena a one-of-a-kind financial opportunity for Virginia and Alexandria.

“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.”

Lucas is currently on a three-day “Virginia Families First” tour defending what Youngkin has criticized in campaign-style events as the Democrat-led General Assembly’s “backward budget.” The budget did not take Youngkin’s proposals regarding the arena or changes to the state’s tax structure into account.

Lucas was joined today by House Appropriations Committee Chair Del. Luke Torian (D-52) and State Sen. Mamie E. Locke (D-23) at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center in Manassas and at George Mason University in Fairfax.

Even if Leonsis pays for the Potomac Yard arena, Lucas was not optimistic about its public reception.

“I think the residents of Alexandria are still gonna barf at that arena, because they don’t want that traffic and the congestion and all that in their neighborhood,” she said. “But my part is to make sure that we’re not on the hook for any funds associated with them trying to enrich billionaires.”

The arena issue has been controversial from the start in Alexandria. An organized movement of anti-arena residents is frequently protesting the move, a number of City Council candidates are also anti-arena, and even neighborhoods next to the proposed development have turned against it.

Legislators will reconvene in Richmond on April 17 to see Youngkin’s proposed amendments, as well as any standalone bills that he may offer. He has the option of introducing a $1.5 billion standalone arena bill that would bypass the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, but both Lucas and Torian told The Washington Post they don’t believe Youngkin can get the 21 Senate and 51 House votes needed to get it passed.

Lucas said that the project threatens Virginia’s AAA bond rating.

“When I was told that the moral obligation bonds of the state were gonna have to back it, and we’re gonna put our bond rating at risk?” she said. “That was an automatic no for me.”

Lucas also said that, while she thinks Youngkin is inept and arrogant, he isn’t stupid enough to veto the budget. The subject reportedly surfaced in a recent video call between Youngkin, Lucas and Torian.

“If he vetoes the budget, he’s gonna shut down the government,” Lucas said. “But you know what? I know he’s inept, and he’s arrogant when it comes to politics, but I don’t think he’s that stupid. At least I hope he’s not.”

Locke said that Youngkin is acting like a spoiled brat.

“We will not be vetoed into agreeing to anything that he’s proposing, which is his game plan,” Locke said. “He’s issued an unprecedented number of early vetoes and is on track to veto more bills than any other governor in Virginia history, but that’s not going to help finalize a state budget in a timely fashion. But that’s his game plan. This is what spoiled brats do when they don’t get what they want.”

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