See below for a few quick reactions to the announcement this morning of a possible new Washington Capitals/Wizards arena in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard. Glenn Youngkin is, of course, excited (and “desperate for a win,” as political analyst Jeff Schapiro notes), but his judgement is absolutely horrendous, he only cares about money and political advantage for himself, and we shouldn’t listen to anything he says. As for Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, he seems enthused (“A project this special will help the City realize our collective strategy and the vibrant vision for this neighborhood and for our city as a whole”), and since his opinion is something we should actually respect (unlike Youngkin’s opinion on anything), that actually means something.
However, there are many questions and potential downsides – some major – to this proposed project. For instance, as Transportation Reporter/Anchor NBC Washington Adam Tuss points out (see below):
“from the transportation sources I’ve been talking to about about any major transportation plans for this new Wizards/Capitals arena – it seems like very minimal planning to this point other than the new Potomac Yard Metro station…In other words, there’s no plan right now to make Route 1 some sort of access highway to the new stadium. Also, many of the main roads (Glebe) that connect to this area pass through dense neighborhoods. One other observation – if you were headed to Cap One downtown, you always had MULTIPLE Metro stations you could use if you really wanted to. Metro Center was just a few blocks away from Gallery Place. In Alx, all the emphasis will be on Potomac Yard.”
Just that alone should seriously call into question whether this project should even be considered – at least until all that planning is done, Metro given the funding it needs, etc. On that note, Stewart Schwartz (Executive Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth) points out:
“Quite the contrast today: the @wmataGM is forced to release a ‘doomsday’ Metro budget with massive service cuts b/c we are still waiting for a commitment to close @wmata budget gap but officials jump through hoops to promise subsidies for sports teams. Wondering if Governor Youngkin plans to also help meet @wmata funding needs. $150 to $200 million more from Va would really help close the funding gap and avoid doomsday transit scenario. Hard to get to the arenas without Metro.”
Of course, we all know the answer to that question – of course Youngkin has not plans to help WMATA meet its funding needs, because – right winger that he is – he’s hostile to transit.
Meanwhile, Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker – who represents the Potomac Yard area in the House of Delegates – makes some good points about diversifying tax revenues, generating funds for housing and education, etc., while also “weighing that against other considerations – including community input, state funding for Metro, and whether the project prioritizes and protects local workers and ensures fair wages.”
As for the question – as reporter Jake Hherman asks – “does building a venue in Virginia unite DC, Maryland and Virginia?” – the answer is obvious – nope, definitely not. To the contrary, for a bunch of reasons, having major professional sports teams in the CENTER of a major metropolitan area (e.g., D.C.), close to transit. is optimal, while anything else is really suboptimal. In fact, as Matthew Gertz of MediaMatters notes, “This particular arena anchors a transit-rich downtown that has been suffering a lack of commercial activity post-pandemic, and that area will be hurt by moving the teams within the metro area but into VA.”
So the question really is, would this project be a net benefit to the region (clearly, it will hurt DC, as well as Wizards/Caps fans in Maryland), or even to the local community in Alexandria? Has it been thoroughly thought through and planned for, including making sure that the transportation piece – including Metro – works well? Is a new arena a good fit for its proposed location? Will Virginia taxpayers be on the hook for any subsidies to billionaire Ted Leonsis? Let’s hope the Virginia General Assembly, soon to be under unified Democratic control, looks into all of these questions – and more – and gets answers.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson seems very excited about the Potomac Yards arena project, arguing, “A project this special will help the City realize our collective strategy and the vibrant vision for this neighborhood and for our city as a whole.” https://t.co/5YNjcAIBAo pic.twitter.com/23RmONzIeL
— Blue Virginia (@bluevirginia) December 13, 2023