Today, the Washington Post set the internet ablaze in the DC Area when they released a story that implies that the Capitals and Wizards may be relocating to Arlington, VA. Why? Because the District (what I call the government of DC) and Monumental Sports & Entertainment (“MSE” owns the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics) are currently negotiating on Capital One Arena upgrades. This allows the team to leak info to get the city moving a little faster.
Included in the story is this little nugget:
“MSE executives have also talked to Virginia government officials about relocating the Capitals and Wizards from downtown D.C. to Northern Virginia, near Amazon’s new HQ2, according to three people with knowledge of the situation, who were not authorized to speak publicly about negotiations” – Washington Post, 06/23/23
Weeks ago, MSE met with DC leaders to discuss expensive improvements that the team wants to be done to the arena. MSE apparently went into this meeting with the hope that “the city (would) help pay for (the project) as an investment in a major economic driver in the struggling downtown”. Normally, the city is obligated legally to give the sports team whatever it wants for renovations or upgrades (see the Bengals as the king of this tactic). Here, the District has no obligation or requirement. That hasn’t stopped the District from giving MSE $70 million in 2007. But according to MSE, the arena needs substantive “structural work”. MSE somewhat implies that the city should give the team money since MSE has “has invested $125 million into the arena since 2010” and plans to invest an additional $80 million this year with building development. Considering murders and crime continue to rise in and around the arena, I am not sure what some upgrades would do to transform or even help residents in the area.
Unfortunately for MSE, money from the District may be harder to get, as the Nationals are also asking for taxpayer money “to fund a number of capital improvements” to the ballpark. Unlike MSE, the Nationals have a legitimate argument that the city must financially help them first. The Nationals have reminded the District in negotiations that the contract for the ballpark includes language that states that the District must use certain local taxes “to directly pay or finance all or any of the costs of any future renovations, improvements, maintenance, or upgrades”.
What seems odd to me is that the MSE spokesman claims that at a recent meeting with local leaders, MSE did not discuss money with the District leaders. They just told everyone that money issues would be dealt with in future meetings. Another odd thing is just how much the Post seems to want this move to happen. In the story, moving to Virginia would be a “major economic development” win for everyone. The story also notes that MSE could follow Amazon’s lead in moving to Virginia and could also cause a “rapid transformation” of an area, just like Amazon did. Say, who owns the Washington Post?
Please remember that there are not many sports owners who whine about their arena deal circumstances anywhere near as much as Ted Leonsis (owner of MSE). He claims to have “the worst building deal in professional sports” and also has complained about having to pay a mortgage at the arena. How dare the city tax him like everyone else! As the Washington Post wrote, Leonsis is now complaining about “the area surrounding the arena and the city’s lack of investment in the building”. Maybe Leonsis is struggling for money. Wait, what happened this week?
“Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is buying a roughly 5% stake in the parent company of the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and WNBA’s Washington Mystics as part of a deal that values the entire portfolio at over $4 billion” – ESPN.com, 06/22/23
Yeah, how dare the District not pay for the billionaire’s upgrades. Speaking of entitled and spoiled, why hasn’t Virginia upgraded my house yet? Haven’t DC residents suffered enough? They are STILL having to pay the absurd Ballpark fee for the Nationals’ arrival years ago.