From Dan Heng of the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard:
If you’re a regular reader of Blue Virginia, you are well aware that Governor Youngkin, the City of Alexandria, and Ted Leonsis, owner of the Capitals and Wizards, want to build a new taxpayer-funded arena at Potomac Yard in Alexandria. What you might not know is that there is a grassroots resident organization, the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard, that has emerged to oppose wasteful spending on an arena and to elevate the concerns of nearby communities about the unmitigated quality of life issues that the arena project will bring. And we need your help!
Some background: On December 13, 2023, Governor Glenn Youngkin, Mayor Justin Wilson of Alexandria, and Ted Leonsis, Chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, announced their intention to build a new arena for the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood. Aside from a new arena, the adjoining arena district would also include a performing arts venue with a capacity of several thousand and adjacent mixed-use development.
The proposed plan aims for groundbreaking on the arena in 2025 with a projected opening in 2028. According to figures from the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, a city-funded business promotion authority and leading proponent of this project, the City and Commonwealth will jointly borrow $1.4 billion to finance construction of the arena, backed largely by tax revenues generated from the arena and the surrounding district.
Community Concerns and Fiscal Irresponsibility
Governor Youngkin and Mayor Wilson rolled out this plan without consulting anyone in the community. As Senator Mark Warner told reporters in mid-December after the arena project was announced,
I think the state and the city probably should have done more outreach in those neighborhood communities, because they will have to be assured that their quality of life is not going to be dramatically upset, that there’s going to be appropriate parking restrictions so that their neighborhoods are not flooded with fans parking in non-designated areas . . . that there are going to be adequate protections so that you don’t have any uptick in any kind of crime. I think those goals can be met, but there will be a lot of questions that will need to be answered by both the city and the Commonwealth if this project is to go forward.
With little to no consultation with local communities done in the interim, the Governor and his allies in the General Assembly intend to push through enabling legislation to form the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority, which would issue the bonds to pay for the arena and own the arena and some surrounding parcels. One way the Governor intends to ensure authorization for the Authority is by including it in the Commonwealth’s must-pass biennial budget. Meanwhile, project proponents have kept lawmakers in the dark when it comes to key details, big and small.
This stunning lack of transparency calls for the utmost of skepticism and scrutiny. We call on members of the General Assembly to delay or stop passage of the Authority’s enabling legislation until resident concerns are adequately addressed and an independent analysis of the project’s economic impact can be conducted. Representatives of the City and Commonwealth have thus far brushed aside legitimate resident concerns about traffic, transportation, displacement of vulnerable communities, police staffing, crime, and project finance.
How You Can Help!
- Email, call, and write your State Senator and Delegate: Tell them that without transparency, a commitment of billions of dollars over the term of the arena bonds is unacceptable to you. It is particularly important for you to reach out to your elected officials if you live outside of Northern Virginia. They will listen to your concerns! You can find your representatives here.
- Join our movement: You can find more about our organization at our website and follow us on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).
- Sign up to volunteer.
- Donate to our GoFundMe so that we can order yard signs, banners, and flyers.
- Sign our petition.
- If you are local to Alexandria or live nearby, please attend:
- Sunday, January 21, 1 PM Legislative town hall with Senator Adam Ebbin, Delegates Charniele Herring, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Alfonso Lopez, and Adele McClure, Alexandria City High School
- Saturday, January 27, 9:30 AM Alexandria City Council Town Hall on the arena project, City Council chambers
- Attend our virtual town hall on Wednesday, January 24. Our guests include Dennis Coates, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County economist who specializes in sports economics, and we will be taking live questions from participants.
- Write an op-ed or letter to the editor for your local newspaper: Coalition members are happy speak with you about the issues at play so that you can write a well-informed piece. Reach out to us here.
The Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard is a 501(c)(4) grassroots resident group that coalesced in response to the in response to the alarming rush by elected officials to greenlight a staggering $2.2 billion sports and entertainment complex that lacks popular support in the community. Donations to the Coalition are not tax-deductible. You can reach the author of this post here.