Leonsis Says D.C. Crime Had ‘Very Little’ to do With Arena Decision

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL: Ted Leonsis says crime had little to do with his decision to move the Washington Wizards and Capitals to a new arena in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, and that he hopes planning efforts willalleviate concerns about traffic at the new venue.

The managing partner and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment made appearances on three local TV news stations on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss his rationale for the move and plans for a new $2 billion entertainment district with sportsarena.

A deal with Virginia to establish the financial framework for the project, which includes the creation of a new state sports authority to issue bonds, is still subject to approvals in Richmond. Alexandria’s City Council will also need to sign off onthe project.

Leonsis told WUSA-TV “the die is cast” about moving the teams to Virginia, and he told WJLA-TVhe’s not using the arena plans in Virginia to getleverage on the District for a better deal.

“If it’s approved in Virginia, we’re moving to Virginia,” he said on WJLA.

Leonsis said the plan to move has “very little” to do with rising crime in the District. Monumental has hired additional off-duty police to beef up security around the arena in the last year.

“I believe in [D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser] and that they’re going to take very, very seriously the reimagination of D.C.,” Leonsis said on WJLA. “I think the crime — city council, mayor, police force — they’ll get it right. Big cities have a lot of crime. But Ihave called for an integrated look at how we will turn the city around. … I see every part of the city through my work in philanthropy, through the work with my venture funds here, through Georgetown University. It’s going to take a village to turn thisaround. I think the crime will get — as the new laws get rolled out, as the police force gets reestablished and refunded — I think crime will come down.”

The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved a 100-provision public safety bill that takes aim at rising crime with stiffer gun penalties, new theft-related crimes and longer sentences for repeat theft offenders.

Leonsis also echoed sentiments he expressed last month in a long message to supporters that the arena move is about getting more space and opportunity for this franchises in the decades ahead.

“I’m going to build, though, the greatest building, the greatest sports community, because I’ve got the land and the room to do it,” Leonsis told NBC4Washington about the 12-acre space in Potomac Yard. “And then we’re going to win more Stanley Cups and we’re going to win an NBA championship.”

Leonsis told WUSA he understands concerns about increased traffic in Alexandria with the new arena, but he hopes planning efforts will mitigate the impacts. He cited efforts in San Francisco to ease access to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft around the new Chase Center for the Golden State Warriors.

“We’ve been looking at best practices on all of the arenas where it works and traffic is mitigated,” he told WUSA. “And so I’m looking forward to being a part of a solution and not being additive.”

Last week, officials in Virginia and Alexandria, in conjunction with Monumental, rolled out an early transportation plan for the Potomac Yard arenacompiled by firm Kimley-Horn. The plan calls for a significant focus on minimizing the impact during peak traffic rush hours when there are home games. It also calls for allocating millions for improvementsto surrounding roadways, the new Potomac Yard Metro station and to increase access to the Metroway bus rapid transit system and the use of satellite parking. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin andofficials in Alexandria have said there is millions in funding that can be used on transportation improvements.

“Nationals Park had a Metro. Their stadium is twice as big as our arena,” Leonsis told WUSA. “So what did the Nationals do? What did the city do to accommodate the Nationals? They added elevators.They added easier ways to get in and out, but they didn’t have to do anything to the actual track. They didn’t have to do anything to the station. That’s what we’re going to have to do.”

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