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Talks on luring NHL’s Capitals and NBA’s Wizards to Virginia are over, city of Alexandria says

Ted Leonsis

Mar 21, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and owner Ted Leonsis during a ceremony to honor scoring an NHL second best 802 career goal before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Mills/Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — Negotiations aimed at luring the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the NBA’s Washington Wizards to northern Virginia have “ended” and the proposal to create a development district with a new arena for the teams “will not move forward,” the city of Alexandria said.

Virginia’s House speaker also confirmed he was told that Ted Leonsis, majority owner of the teams, is no longer considering a deal to relocate them from the District of Columbia.

House Speaker Don Scott told The Associated Press he received that news from Justin Wilson, the mayor of Alexandria, where Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin had hoped to land the teams.

The city said in a statement posted to its website that it was disappointed in the outcome. The development came after an incentive plan offered by Youngkin failed to gain traction in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.

“We negotiated a framework for this opportunity in good faith and participated in the process in Richmond in a way that preserved our integrity. We trusted this process and are disappointed in what occurred between the Governor and General Assembly,” the city’s statement said.

Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the teams’ parent company, and the District of Columbia are close to signing a letter of intent for a $515 million renovation of Capital One Arena, their current home, that will keep the Capitals and Wizards in the city for the long term, according to a letter from Leonsis to employees that was obtained by AP.

Daniel Gleick, a spokesman for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, said he had no information he could share “at this time.” A spokeswoman for Monumental didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Youngkin expressed disappointment and frustration over the demise of a plan he said would have created $12 billion in economic investment.

“This should have been our deal and our opportunity,” the governor said in a statement. He added: “But no, personal and political agendas drove away a deal with no upfront general fund money and no tax increases, that created tens of thousands of new jobs and billions in revenue for Virginia.”

Youngkin and Leonsis announced at a public event in December that they had reached an understanding on the outlines of a plan calling for a new $2 billion development district with a new arena in Alexandria, just a few miles from where the teams currently play.

The proposal called for the General Assembly to set up an authority that would issue bonds to finance the majority of the project, backed partly by the city and state governments and repaid through a mix of projected tax revenues recaptured from the development.

Youngkin and other supporters said the development would generate tens of thousands of jobs, along with new tax revenues beyond what would have been needed to cover the financing.

But the plan faced opposition from labor unions, Alexandria residents concerned about traffic and D.C. officials who feared the loss of the teams would devastate downtown Washington.

Youngkin and other backers also failed to win over powerful Democratic Sen. L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, who chairs the Senate’s budget-writing committee. She used that position to block the legislation, citing a range of concerns but foremost the financing structure of the deal: The use of bonds put taxpayers and the state’s finances at risk, Lucas said.

Wilson, the Alexandria mayor, said in a video statement, “We are disappointed that this proposal was not able to be thoughtfully considered on its merits ... and instead got caught up in partisan warfare in Richmond.”

The attorney for the District of Columbia wrote a letter to Monumental saying the teams’ lease kept them in the downtown arena through 2047. The company had disputed that assertion.

Leonsis, founder and CEO of Monumental, had shifted his tone on social media in recent days, pointing to large crowds in Washington’s Capital One Arena for everything from the Capitals and Wizards to ACC Tournament basketball and a Zach Bryan concert. He posted that Monumental expected over 400,000 fans to pass through turnstiles in March.

Leonsis was notably not on the ice for a ceremony honoring longtime Capitals winger T.J. Oshie for reaching the milestone of 1,000 NHL games. He was booed by some fans when his message to Oshie came up on arena video screens.