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Explaining Why the Washington Wizards Failed at Leaving DC

Ted Leonsis agrees to deal to stop Wizards from leaving DC

If you’re a fan of the Wizards, then you may recall that in December of 2023, team owner Ted Leonsis announced that Monumental Sports and Entertainment (the parent company that owns the Wizards and the Capitals) planned to create an entertainment district in Alexandria, which would host a new arena, the Wizards practice facility, a media studio, performing arts venue, and many restaurants and retail shops. The move was met with excited anticipation by some, and indignation by others. Yet, even though the move wouldn’t have happened until 2028, the paperwork was never finalized, and on March 27th of 2024, Leonsis announced that he signed a letter of intent with the mayor of DC to stay in Capital One Arena.

This begs the question: what caused the billion-dollar deal to go sideways?

Analyzing the Washington Wizards Desire for Leaving DC

First, let’s understand each side’s perspective in the deal:


The Wizards moving to Alexandria would’ve been a major economic boost for Northern Virginia…although, the area doesn’t really need one. Northern Virginia is an affluent area with great schools, low crime, and developments like Tysons Mall that bring in plenty of money. Alexandria in particular is also home to many smaller, family-owned stores.

Even though the Wizards haven’t been a playoff team for the past few years, an NBA team still has hundreds of thousands of fans and boosts the economy through ticket sales, merchandise sales, concessions, and so much more. By moving to Alexandria and building the dream $2 billion complex, Virginia’s economy would have soared even further.

To summarize: the move would’ve been helpful, but it wasn’t necessary or needed. We’ll get to the detractors of this deal in a minute.

District of Columbia

The Wizards moving away from DC was not something that anyone in DC wanted. The city already lost the Washington Commanders (formerly Redskins) in 1997 when they began playing their games in Maryland…now they might have to lose two more teams?

For Monumental Sports and Entertainment, it makes sense that they no longer wanted to be in DC. The downtown area is no stranger to crime, and it would only increase further with the Wizards’ departure.

To summarize: DC benefits economically and socially from having the Wizards, and removing them would be catastrophic.

Concerns for Wizards Leaving DC

Unfortunately for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, not all of Virginia even wanted the Wizards! There were doubts about whether Northern Virginia was ready for the increased amount of people in attendance for games. For public transportation in Northern Virginia, many people rely on the Metro, which only opened a stop at Potomac Yard (the specific site of the complex) a few months before this announcement was made. As a result, Metro said that there would be extreme amounts of crowding post-game. Wait times, they warned, could reach 60-90 minutes after games.

Of course, while this was a legitimate concern, a $2 billion deal wasn’t going to be stopped because of traffic. So, what was the real problem?

Virginia’s Government

Ultimately, Virginia’s legislators put a stop to the deal. While the governor was a huge advocate of the deal, members of the Virginia Congress weren’t as enthusiastic, believing that:

  1. Building the facility was a waste of the state budget
  2. The increased strain on taxpayers wasn’t worth it

Now it wasn’t just DC that didn’t want this to happen…but parts of Virginia too?

To add the cherry on top, DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb found a legal argument against the move by Monumental Sports and Entertainment. According to Schwalb, DC gave $50 million to the Wizards’ Arena (then known as Verizon Center) for improvements that were needed at the time. However, that $50 million was conditional: they would only get the money if they extended the 2027 lease 20 more years, until 2047.

The Wizards received their money through municipal bonds, which Schwalb says they can’t pay back earlier to get out of the deal. He added that the city will give $500 million to renovate Capital One Arena, a further incentive to stay. The city didn’t want their teams leaving, and said there would be no hard feelings if they stayed.

That just about put the nail in the coffin. Five days after Schwalb made his public statements on March 22nd, Leonsis announced that Monumental Sports and Entertainment would be staying in Washington DC. Brian Schwalb became a hero to Wizards fans living in the District of Columbia, the fans got what they wanted, and (almost) everyone seems relatively happy…at least, until 2047 rolls around.


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