Deja Vu, All Over Again

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginia is trying again to land a sports facility for a national professional sports team, The Washington Post reports. This time it is an arena for the Wizards of the National Basketball Association and the Capitals of the National Hockey League. Both teams have the same owner and are currently located in Washington, D.C.

The facility would be located in Potomac Yards in Alexandria. (If that name sounds familiar, that is where then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder tried to lure the Washington Redskins football team 30 years ago.) According to the Post, the arena would anchor a “massive mixed-use development.” A stadium authority would own the facility and lease it to the company that owns the sports teams. There are no public details on potential costs yet. The owner of the Wizards and the Capitals would be expected to put up “hundreds of millions of dollars of its own money,” with the remainder being provided by the authority. The authority would sell bonds to raise the cash and use revenue from ticket sales, concessions, and parking to repay the bonds (theoretically). 

Although the General Assembly will need to approve this endeavor, a group of Virginia lawmakers has already given the green light to the project. The Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission, which, by law, must review major economic development proposals, met Monday to consider the project. Although proceedings of the commission are exempt from FOIA provisions, sources told the Post that the commission approved the project. The commission is made up of legislators as follows:

House of Delegates

  • Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach)
  • Daniel Marshall (R-Pittsylvania County)
  • Robert Bloxom (R-Accomack County)
  • Lee Ware (R-Powhatan County)
  • Luke Torian (D-Prince William County)
  • Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County)


  • George Barker (D-Fairfax County)
  • Thomas Norment (R-James City County)
  • Frank Ruff (R-Mecklenburg County)
  • Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax County)
  • Mamie Locke (D-Hampton)

(It should be noted that three of the Senators — Barker, Norment, and Saslaw — are lame ducks.)

According to the Post’s sources, the vote was unanimous.

My Soapbox

Public funds should not be used to subsidize privately-owned sports teams and private development. At the very least, not a dollar of tax money should be dedicated to this project, nor should the Commonwealth of Virginia be liable for any potential debt payments. Are we really so embarrassed that Virginia is the largest state not to host a major professional sports team that we are willing to pursue bad and mediocre teams? (The Wizards’ most recent five-season record is 161-229. The Capitals at least have a winning record over five years, 204-124, and they finished first in their division two of those seasons. Last year, they finished sixth in their division and 25th in the entire NHL.)