D.C. Council Approves $515M for Capital One Arena Upgrade

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TL/DR –

The D.C. Council has voted to invest $515 million over the next three years to modernize the Capital One Arena and expand the surrounding area, a deal secured by Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. The renovation aims to transform the Gallery Place and Chinatown neighborhood into an entertainment district to boost the economy. Lawmakers have clarified that the funds for the renovation project will come from the District’s capital budget, not the operating budget.


DC Council Approves $515 Million for Arena Modernization and Expansion

The D.C. Council has unanimously agreed to allocate $515 million for the refurbishment of Capital One Arena over the next three years. This decision follows an agreement between Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser to keep the teams playing in the downtown arena.

Revitalizing Downtown Washington

The renovation is the first step in transforming the Gallery Place and Chinatown neighborhood into an entertainment district, aiming to boost the downtown economy. The council stresses that the renovation funds will come from the District’s capital budget, not its operating budget.

Creating an Entertainment District

The council’s move to fund the arena’s renovation is separate from a nonbinding term sheet detailing Bowser and Leonsis’s agreement specifics. The tentative agreement addresses Leonsis’s concerns about public safety and company expansion. Under the current agreement, $15 million in public funds from the city’s initial $500 million offer will be used for improvements between Capital One Arena and Gallery Place.

Preserving DC Jobs and Boosting Local Businesses

In exchange for the District’s offerings, Monumental is required to undertake community projects like building a new playground and basketball court, preserving jobs for DC residents, and helping local small businesses through certain contracting requirements.

Council Concerns and Public Comments

Several council members have expressed concerns about the agreement. Some provisions may require the city to incur additional costs, and others question whether the District should be in a stronger negotiating position. The council pushed the appropriations bill forward on an emergency basis, with no formal opportunity for public comment.

Public Response and Protests

The meeting was interrupted by separate protests on unrelated issues. Demonstrators from the Save Chinatown Solidarity Network protested the appropriation for Monumental, arguing that if the District could help a billionaire sports team owner upgrade the arena, the city needed to do more to invest in the remaining Chinese residents in Chinatown.

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