Wizards, Capitals proposed move not permitted for at least another 24 years, DC attorney general argues

Wizards, Capitals proposed move not permitted for at least another 24 years, DC attorney general argues

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Earlier this month, Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced plans to move the Wizards out of Washington, D.C., in favor of a multi-billion sports and entertainment complex located on the other side of the Potomac River.

A new arena for the Wizards and the Washington Capitals, the city’s NHL franchise, could be constructed in the Potomac Yard area in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. The project will be funded under a public-private partnership and would likely break ground in 2025, per Youngkin’s office. The project’s tentative completion date is scheduled for late 2028.

But, the District of Columbia attorney general recently presented a potential roadblock. Brian Schwalb wrote a letter to Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the Wizards and Capitals parent organization, arguing that sports franchises have to remain in the downtown arena through atleast 2047.

Schwalb also asserted in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the district’s attorney general cited a 2007 bond agreement for renovations that extended the teams’ lease for 20 more years beyond the initial timeframe through 2027.


The proposed move of the Capitals and Wizards sports teams to nearby Virginia has stoked concern in a pair of fragile Washington neighborhoods. Residents and business owners in Chinatown fear that the departure of the teams would devastate the neighborhood around the Capital One Arena. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Aside from the potential bond agreement issues, the $2 billion plan for the new arena and entertainment district also faces challenges in the Virginia legislature.

Earlier this month, Virginia Democratic Sen. L. Louise Lucas used her perch as chair of the Finance and Appropriations Committee to keep the arena deal struck by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Ted Leonsis, the head of Monumental, out of the state budget. That development doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for the plan, but it complicates the path forward.


“Why are we discussing an arena at Potomac Yard with the same organization that is breaking their agreement and commitments to Washington DC? ” Lucas wrote on social media. “Does anyone believe they wouldn’t do exactly the same thing to us?”

Capitol One Arena exterior

An exterior shot of Capitol One Arena introducing Johnny Davis the #10 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft of the Washington Wizards on June 24, 2022 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower previously floated the idea that the city would be willing to contribute an estimated $500 million towards arena renovation. Schwalb said that offer still stands.

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post last month, Bowser urged Monumental to consider that and said the city would enforce the lease terms if necessary.

“The District very much prefers not to pursue any potential claims against MSE,” Schwalb wrote in a letter to Monumental general counsel Abby Blomstrom in response to one she sent to the city last month. 

“It remains committed to maintaining and growing its partnership with MSE and to keeping the Wizards and Capitals at the Arena until the end of the existing lease term in 2047, if not beyond. It is in that spirit that the District urges MSE to re-engage with District officials around a mutually beneficial arrangement that advances the long term interests of both the District and MSE.”


A Monumental spokesperson said Friday, “We fundamentally disagree with the attorney general’s opinions, which are contradicted by the DC general counsel as recently as 2019 when the city ratified the ground lease.”

That agreement five years ago includes an amendment that allows Monumental to pre-pay bonds and revoke the extension with 120 days notice.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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