DC Council approves bill allocating $515M to Capital One Arena project

The D.C. Council has approved an emergency bill that will provide $515 million for a publicly funded arena project after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s plan to lure the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals to Alexandria imploded last week.

A handful of lawmakers are signaling that some citywide programs could see budget cuts this week, and some activists are questioning the deal.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser pushed for approval of the bill known as the Downtown Arena Financing Partnership and Revised Budget Emergency and Temporary Amendment Act of 2024 in an email sent to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on Tuesday. It read:

"I urge approval of this emergency and temporary legislation that was developed in close collaboration between my Administration, the Council, and Monumental Sports and Entertainment. This legislation is an example of how Government and the private sector can work together to reimagine and revitalize an iconic space in the nation’s capital that serves the District and the entire Washington metropolitan region.

Alongside the thrilling announcement of the Wizards and Capitals remaining in DC through 2050, this legislation provides a catalytic investment of $515 million in Downtown DC and is necessary to ensure that funds are available as we work through other aspects of the project. 

We intend to honor our commitment to Downtown DC’s revitalization, ensuring that the Gallery Place-Chinatown neighborhood retains its prominence as a premier destination for sports, concerts, and entertainment events. Investing in Downtown DC pays dividends in all eight wards through jobs for our residents, sales taxes for our social benefits programs, and the draw of millions of fans to sustain our local businesses. 

The Capital One Arena – and the revitalization of the entirety of Downtown DC – is a critical piece of DC’s Comeback Plan."

Bowser and the majority owner of the Wizards and Capitals, Ted Leonsis, signed a letter of intent last week for the deal, which keeps the teams in the District through 2050. 

The project includes 200,000 square feet of expansion of the arena complex into the nearby Gallery Place space. It also includes the creation of an entertainment district in the surrounding Chinatown neighborhood. Also included are safety and transportation upgrades.

Leonsis’ tentative deal with Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to relocate the teams to a taxpayer-backed arena in northern Virginia collapsed last Wednesday, weeks after a defeat in the state’s General Assembly. It called for a $2 billion development in the Potomac Yard section of Alexandria that would include an arena, practice facility and corporate headquarters for Monumental, plus a separate performing arts venue,

The Associated Press contributed to this report.