Wizards, Capitals stadium deal ‘dead,’ according to Virginia lawmaker

A deal to bring the Washington Wizards and Capitals to Virginia is dead, according to powerful state Sen. L. Louise Lucas, a Democrat.

Two bills to establish a stadium authority in Virginia are sitting in the state’s legislature: one in the House of Delegates and one in the Senate. The House’s version passed through committee on Friday. But on Monday, Ms. Lucas, chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, said her panel would not hear the proposal.

She also noted that she would not support the House’s bill if it cleared a chamber vote and made it to the Senate floor.

“As far as I’m concerned, it is [dead],” Ms. Lucas told reporters Monday. “As long as the full faith and credit of this commonwealth is backing this project, my answer continues to be an absolute no.”

Any stadium project is contingent on bills to create a stadium authority. State officials could then issue $1.4 billion in public bonds to finance the new stadium. They would then use tax and naming rights revenues from the arena to pay off the bonds.

Ms. Lucas said she’s concerned about financing the arena. She believes that taxpayers will be responsible for construction costs if revenue from the stadium fails to meet expectations.

On social media, Ms. Lucas blamed Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin for the bill’s shortcomings.

“Governor’s Arena Bill is not on the Senate Finance and Appropriations docket because his proposal is not ready for prime time,” Ms. Lucas wrote on X. “This is what happens when Executive Branch doesn’t operate in good faith and doesn’t have respect for the Legislative Branch.”

Senate Republicans criticized Ms. Lucas and other Democratic leaders for not allowing the bill to come to a vote in the Senate.

“The only plausible explanation for this move is that there were not enough votes in the Senate Finance Committee to defeat the bill,” state Sen. Mark Obenshain of Rockingham said. “This departure from the traditions of the Senate is unfortunate and clearly indicates a deep division among Senate Democrats.”

In a statement, Mr. Youngkin’s office said the arena could bring job growth and tax revenue to the state.

“The governor is confident at the end of the day that the General Assembly will come together because this project is good for the entire commonwealth,” said Rob Damschen, the governor’s communication director. “It creates 30,000 jobs and unlocks billions in new revenue that can be used to fund expanded toll relief in Portsmouth, increased funding for I-81, and new money for education for rural and urban school divisions across the commonwealth.”

Anti-arena advocates have expressed concerns about transportation issues at the proposed stadium.

A report commissioned by the state said city officials would need $215 million to improve local roadways and the Metro. The Potomac Yard Metro station opened in May 2023. Experts noted that it is not equipped to handle stadium-sized volumes.

With its current set-up, the station would be “extremely crowded” for up to 90 minutes after an event at the proposed arena.

“With improvements, the station will be able to handle anticipated passengers but will be crowded for 30-45 minutes post-game,” the report said.

“A ‘no’ vote by the full House of Delegates and the Senate remains the best way for the General Assembly to stand with the residents of Alexandria and the taxpayers of Virginia against a billionaire team owner and a millionaire governor,” said Andrew Macdonald, former vice mayor of Alexandria and a leader in the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard.

“The grassroots members of the Stop the Arena Coalition will continue to fight to make sure this deal ends up where it belongs: on the scrap heap.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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