Capitals, Wizards moving to Virginia in tentative state deal

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has reached a tentative agreement with the parent company of the NBA's Washington Wizards and NHL's Washington Capitals to move those teams from the District of Columbia to what he called a new "visionary sports and entertainment venue" in northern Virginia.

The proposal, which would need the state legislature's approval, calls for the creation of a $2 billion sports and entertainment district south of Washington in Alexandria, just miles from the existing arena, Youngkin said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of a news conference Wednesday at the site. It would include an arena for what would be the state's first major professional sports teams, as well as a new Wizards practice facility, a separate performing arts center, a media studio, new hotels, a convention center, housing and shopping.

"The Commonwealth will now be home to two professional sports teams, a new corporate headquarters, and over 30,000 new jobs -- this is monumental," Youngkin said in a statement.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis appeared with Youngkin and city officials at Wednesday's announcement. He endorsed the proposal, thanked Youngkin and said he had "goose bumps" at the thought of the project coming together "if all goes as planned."

Monumental also owns the WNBA's Mystics, and in its news release Wednesday said that Capital One Arena, where the Wizards and Capitals currently play, could potentially become the Mystics' home again. The WNBA team played there from its inception in 1998 until 2018, then moved to the much-smaller Entertainment and Sports Arena in southeastern Washington, D.C., where the Wizards' G League team, the Capital City Go-Go, also plays. The Mystics won the 2019 WNBA title at 4,200-seat ESA.

Monumental also said Capital One Arena could host various other events, such as NCAA tournament games and concerts.

"Our intention is to expand here and keep Capital One Arena in D.C. a great place," said Leonsis, a wealthy entrepreneur and former AOL executive.

The new development would be located in the Potomac Yard section of Alexandria, near Virginia Tech's ambitious Innovation Campus, a graduate school that is under construction and will be focused on technology.

To help finance the venue project, Youngkin will ask the Virginia General Assembly in the 2024 session to approve the creation of a Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority, a public entity with the ability to issue bonds. Those bonds would be repaid partly by tax revenues from the project.

"We have reached a very clear understanding, really subject to finalizing the General Assembly's work," Youngkin said in the interview.

Still, on Tuesday night ahead of the announcement, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a counterproposal aimed at keeping the teams. The legislation would direct half a billion dollars to modernize Capital One Arena.

"The modernization of the Capital One Arena will be an invaluable investment for continued success and our future prosperity," Bowser said in a statement. "This proposal represents our best and final offer and is the next step in partnering with Monumental Sports to breathe new life and vibrancy into the neighborhood and to keep the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals where they belong -- in Washington, DC."

Bowser said that proposal has unanimous support from the D.C. Council.

When the Capitals and Wizards moved from suburban Maryland to D.C.'s Chinatown district in 1997 in what was then known as MCI Center, officials credited the arena with sparking a revival in downtown Washington. In recent years, critics who have faulted city officials for lax crime policies have said the neighborhood around the arena has suffered disproportionately.

The proposed 9 million-square-foot Virginia entertainment district would be developed by JBG Smith, a publicly traded real estate firm that is also the developer of Amazon's new headquarters in neighboring Arlington, Youngkin's office said.

The administration expects the project to generate a combined $12 billion in economic impact for Virginia and the city of Alexandria in the coming decades and create around 30,000 new jobs, Youngkin's office said in a statement. Subject to legislative approval, it would break ground in 2025 and open in late 2028.

The event Wednesday also drew a group of around 10 protesters, who were barely audible from the tent where the announcement took place.

Located along the Potomac, just across the water from Washington, the district would be accessible by "all modes of transportation," Youngkin's office touted in the statement, including from a newly opened Metro station.

Potomac Yard, just south of Reagan National Airport, is currently occupied by strip malls and other retail.

In the 1990s, the site received serious consideration as a site for an NFL stadium, but negotiations between the team and Virginia fell through. The site is adjacent to the redevelopment sparked by Amazon's construction.

Asked how a move by Monumental might impact the state's efforts to lure the NFL's Commanders to Virginia and whether those talks were ongoing, Youngkin said he could not comment.

Legislation aimed at recruiting the football team to northern Virginia fell apart last year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.