Open Letter to Virginia Lawmakers: Oppose Wizards/Caps Stadium Deal

Today, lawmakers and Monumental Sports announced a stadium deal to bring the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards to Potomac Yard, Alexandria. This deal would be a MONUMENTAL disaster for Virginia taxpayers. If you agree, sign the following open letter to Virginia lawmakers and tell them to vote no on the deal.

Dear Virginia Lawmaker,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our strong opposition to the recently announced deal with Monumental Sports to bring a publicly-funded stadium to the Potomac Yard neighborhood in Alexandria. 

A well-documented consensus among independent economists is that public financing of sports stadiums seldom yields the economic benefits promised by these initiatives’ backers. In fact, it often leads to more costs on taxpayers in the long run. In 1997, Andrew Zimbalist and Roger G. Noll found that “in every case, the conclusions are the same. A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment." In 2001, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis determined that “the weight of economic evidence, however, shows that taxpayers spend a lot of money and ultimately don't get much back.” In fact, over the last 50 years, state and local governments across the country have spent about $33 billion in public funds to construct major-league sports venues yet, "nearly all empirical studies find little to no tangible impacts of sports teams and facilities on local economic activity, and the level of venue subsidies typically provided far exceeds any observed economic benefits."

The proposed Entertainment District in Potomac Yards appears poised to fall victim to the same overheated economic development predictions. Governor Youngkin’s proposal would require the General Assembly to authorize $2 billion in public bonds to be issued. In addition, the citizens of Alexandria are being asked to contribute as much as $106 million in additional funds. Monumental Sports & Entertainment, would be required to invest $403 million, less than 20 percent of the project’s estimated cost. 

We are not opposed to public support for economic development at Potomac Yards, especially if the benefits were likely to accrue primarily for the citizens of Alexandria and Arlington. Unfortunately, this deal is not about economic development for the community. Building a billionaire team owner a new arena will only increase the value of the Capitals and the Wizards. When the Oakland Raiders moved to Las Vegas the value of the team skyrocketed by five times. This deal is nothing short of a multibillion dollar handout to a few wealthy individuals paid for on the backs of the workers and community members of Arlington and Alexandria, VA. 

Beyond that this deal is just plain bad for Virginia’s taxpayers, we also have the following concerns: 

  • Lack of Community Input: The absence of meaningful community engagement in the decision-making process is a cause for concern. As lawmakers, it is essential to ensure transparency and community involvement in decisions that have a profound impact on local residents and sports fans. We feel there have been few opportunities for public input and consideration of community concerns throughout the planning and approval stages.

  • Traffic and Infrastructure Concerns: The potential negative effects on local traffic and infrastructure due to the construction and operation of the stadium must not be overlooked. Even after the stadium is built, Route 1 will become nearly undriveable during the 82 home games between the Capitals and Wizards respectively – not to mention traffic from concerts. A comprehensive traffic impact study should be conducted at the cost of Monumental Sports, and an infrastructure plan to address potential challenges and develop effective solutions that prioritize the well-being, convenience, and safety of the local community be fully implemented before agreeing to the deal.

  • Public Funding Allocation: It is imperative to demand transparency in financial arrangements and ensure that public money is spent responsibly. Additionally, what kind of clawback agreements do state and local officials have to safeguard public funds if certain milestones are not met.

  • Environmental Protection: Renderings of the new arena suggest that the Entertainment District will be built adjacent to environmentally-sensitive wetlands. It is imperative that any development at Potomac Yard fully complies with relevant state and federal environmental protection regulations. I urge you to prioritize environmental sustainability and consider the long-term impact on our ecosystem.

  • Taxpayer Equity: The estimated economic benefits outlined in the proposal will likely never materialize. However, whatever economic benefits may come, will only benefit the immediate community. Virginians in Floyd, Virginia Beach, Winchester, or Wise will never experience any positive effects, but will still be just as on the hook for paying the bill as every other Virginian. 

Virginia is for lovers. We love our local businesses, our communities, and even our Washington-area sports teams. We don’t love this deal. We urge the General Assembly to vote no. 

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  • Brian Hess
    published this page in Blog 2023-12-13 16:36:05 -0500