WASHINGTON - Is it really a good deal? That’s what some people are wondering when it comes to a 5,000-seat arena and practice facility that’s supposed to be built in one of the District’s poorest areas.
In addition to hosting Washington Wizards practices, the facility in Southeast D.C. will be home to the Washington Mystics. Much of the money being used to build the project will come from tax dollars raised by the city, but little will come from the teams.
The facility will be built on the east campus of St. Elizabeths, which was formerly the site of a mental hospital. The area has one of the highest unemployment rates and many complain not enough retail development. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is ready to put big public bucks on the line to try a turnaround.
“We made a big promise to Ward 8 that we would not forget you,” said Bowser.
Opponents of the project say the public money is too much and could be used on other things, such as helping the homeless and adding to the police force.
D.C. Councilman Jack Evans told FOX 5 that $25 million had already been set aside to redevelop St. Elizabeths years ago. The other money, about $25 million more, will come from tourism revenue, hotel and restaurant taxes.
We asked the mayor if Ted Leonsis, who owns the Wizards and Mystics, was paying enough by chipping in about $5 million and an extra $10 million for community redevelopment.
“We feel very strongly that we have reached a good deal for the District of Columbia that is going to bear many benefits for years to come,” said Bowser.
If the council approves the deal, the facility is still several years out. Many say developments similar to Chinatown and Navy Yard could take over a decade.
An estimated 600 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs will be created.