Monumental CEO Ted Leonsis says he was political ‘collateral harm’ in failed Alexandria area deal

Capitals and Wizards proprietor Ted Leonsis stated he had develop into political “collateral harm” as Virginia lawmakers thought of his plan to maneuver the groups out of D.C. and construct a brand new area for them in Alexandria.

Ted Leonsis, proprietor of the Washington Wizards NBA basketball group and Washington Capitals NHL hockey group, speaks throughout a information convention at Capitol One Arena in Washington, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)(AP/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Putting the blame on politics, Capitals and Wizards proprietor Ted Leonsis stated he had develop into political “collateral harm” as Virginia lawmakers thought of his plan to maneuver the groups out of D.C. and construct a brand new area for them in Alexandria.

“I’m glad I’m not a politician,” Leonsis stated Friday in an interview with WTOP. “I believe politics took over, which I felt very uncomfortable about.”

Leonsis appeared assured within the area plan late final 12 months when he and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin stood collectively and introduced it.

Looking again on that, would Leonsis do something in a different way?

“It’s not the way in which I function, having regrets and issues like that,” stated Leonsis, who’s CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards. “I’m solely trying ahead.”

When requested whether or not he thought the governor had underestimated how tough it might be to get the deal completed, Leonsis stated “I don’t know, and I don’t wish to speculate.”

The plan known as for the creation of a $2 billion growth district within the Potomac Yard part of Alexandria.

Virginia’s General Assembly was requested to arrange an authority that might concern bonds to finance many of the undertaking, backed partly by the town and state governments and repaid by way of a mixture of projected tax revenues recaptured from the event.

Youngkin and different supporters stated the event would generate tens of hundreds of jobs, together with new tax revenues past what would have been wanted to cowl the financing.

Ultimately, nevertheless, there proved to be an excessive amount of political opposition.

“I had all the time checked out Virginia as being a well-managed state, eager to do enterprise,” Leonsis stated, including that this expertise modified his opinion.

“It was like, ‘oh my gosh, this has nothing to do with enterprise anymore; this has to do with politics,’” Leonsis stated. “Who would have thought that D.C. was simpler to work with than Virginia?”

When requested whether or not Leonsis or anybody on his group lobbied Virginia lawmakers straight, he responded by saying, “No, we’re not politicians.”

Ongoing contact with Bowser

Even although Leonsis had been public about his want to maneuver the Capitals and Wizards out of D.C., dialogue between him and Mayor Muriel Bowser by no means soured or stopped all through the method, he stated.

Leonsis stated they even bumped into one another by probability at a convention in mid-January.

“I used to be like, ‘Oh, hey, how’s it going?’” Leonsis stated. “We each hugged one another, and she or he despatched me a textual content the subsequent day and stated ‘It was nice to see you, let’s hold the traces of communications open.’”

“I stated ‘superior,’ and it took off from there,” Leonsis stated. “It was a pure factor.”

Bowser and Leonsis signed a letter of intent Wednesday, reaching an settlement on $515 million in public funding for an area undertaking.

The deal retains the groups within the District by way of 2050.

“She was doing all the proper issues and was recruiting us, which is why I made this pivot,” Leonsis stated. “I believed that’s what Virginia was going to do with us.”

The new D.C. undertaking is about to incorporate 200,000 sq. ft of growth of the Capital One Arena advanced into the close by Gallery Place area, the creation of an leisure district within the surrounding Chinatown neighborhood, and security and transportation upgrades.

D.C. Council members will take up the deal subsequent week and are anticipated to move it.

“We have the chance to construct a bit of bit greater on our constructing, and we now have some work to do on a few of the streets across the constructing, so we’re working with architects and designers,” Leonsis stated, including he desires the realm to look “new and thrilling and fashionable.”

Upgrades will embrace higher premium eating, new expertise, suites and plumbing and “back-of-house enhancements.”

“It’ll be a really complete, multiyear change,” Leonsis stated. “We should have a development mindset to develop our revenues as a result of we’re in competitors towards different groups, different cities, and we now have to look and act like we’re a giant market.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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