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Potomac Yard arena deal dies

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(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s beloved arena deal with the city of Alexandria and Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has died after being introduced just three months ago.

“In a very uncertain time for our region’s economic future, we continue to believe that the Potomac Yard Entertainment District opportunity was worthy of community discussion and council consideration,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson in a statement released Wednesday.

He went on to explain, however, that the city is no longer considering the deal.

“We are disappointed,” Wilson said, “that this proposal was not able to be thoughtfully considered on its merits by legislators, stakeholders and ultimately now, by our community, and instead got caught up in partisan warfare in Richmond.”

Announced in December, the plan was to build a $2 billion entertainment district through a public-private partnership between Alexandria, the commonwealth and Leonsis’ company, Monumental Sports and Entertainment. The teams were to move from their current home at Capital One Arena in downtown Washington, D.C., to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood.

Though the plan garnered unanimous support from the General Assembly’s commission that approves major economic projects, the commission voted before the 2024 General Assembly session – when its membership changed to reflect the November election results. The plan wasn’t as warmly received by the General Assembly at large.

The proposal had more support in the House of Delegates than in the Senate, where the chairman of Finance and Appropriations, Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Porstmouth, blocked a bill facilitating the deal from being heard in committee. Funding for the district also didn’t make it into the Assembly’s negotiated budget bill.

“I will not allow a billionaire to build his company’s wealth on the taxpayer’s dime,” Lucas had said.

Youngkin continued to try to rally support, but to no avail. Further complicating the matter, Washington’s attorney general notified Leonsis five days ago in a letter that the teams were actually contractually obligated to stay in D.C. until 2047.

“This transformational project would have driven investment to every corner of the commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “All the General Assembly had to do was say, ‘Thank you, Monumental, for wanting to come to Virginia and create $12 billion of economic investment, let’s work it out.’ But no, personal and political agendas drove away the deal…. Congratulations to Monumental for striking a great deal, I’m sorry you won’t be in Virginia.”

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