New Practice Facility: Slam Dunk or Economy Crusher


Photo courtesy of

Concept art of what the Washington Wizards want their new practice facility to look like

Elizabeth Noe, Sentry Staff Reporter

The evolution of sports activities in a society shows that the society itself is becoming more complex. The Washington Wizards and the Washington Mystics look to continue this advancement with the plan to build a new practice facility. Although most Wizards and Mystics fans would see this as an agreeable plan, there is doubt among the surrounding community about how the building will affect their day-to-day lives.

The Wizards and Mystics owner Ted Leonsis has a deal in place to build a new practice facility on the property of the former St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital, east of the Anacostia River. This new facility will allow the Wizards and Mystics to have their own place to practice, whereas before they were practicing at their home Verizon Center and had to share the space with other teams. The new building would also include 5,000 seats for spectators, and it would be near the Congress Heights metro station for easy access. The Mystics seem to be the team that will benefit the most from the new facility, because while the Wizards will still play their games in the Verizon Center, the Mystics are moving their entire operation to the St. Elizabeth’s facility, including games.

According to Tom Sherwood of NBC4 Washington, Leonsis said in a statement, “We look forward to working together to build a best-in-class Wizards and Mystics training facility and a fantastic new home venue for Mystics games.”

The area where this facility is being built is a poor area of the District of Columbia (D.C.), so many are concerned about a possible tax increase to help pay for the $55 million building. The deal currently in place includes the city footing the bill for the facility, and renting it out to Leonsis’ company Monumental Sports & Entertainment. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has planned to use some of the city’s funds to help pay for under half the cost of the building. The city council had allowed $100 million dollars to improve the building site, and some of that money is still available. Meanwhile, Leonsis would spend $10 million to help out the surrounding neighborhood. Events DC, a local convention and sports agency, would contribute a maximum of $32.5 million and manage the property.

The people involved argue that the construction of the facility would mean an increase in money flow into the city, and the economic development that would accompany it could help out this poor community. The added sports entertainment could also make living in this area more enjoyable for the community.

In an interview with Matt Ackland of Fox 5 DC, Mayor Bowser said, “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.”

However, there is a possibility of a tax increase to contribute up to 90% of the cost of the new practice facility. If this becomes a reality, the surrounding poor community where this structure is being built is going to be hindered by expenses until the building can boost the economy. It also makes sense that there would be a large tax increase or hidden costs that this community would have to bear, as indicated by Leonsis’ contribution to the community. This is clearly not just a philanthropic move common of Leonsis, as it was part of the building deal with Mayor Bowser.

People involved in the deal encourage Mayor Bowser and the city council to prioritize the St. Elizabeth’s community while forming the deal for the practice facility.

In an interview with Tom Sherwood of NBC4 Washington, City Council member Elissa Silverman said, “I understand the value of sports, but we have to make sure it’s a good deal for the city.”

There is resounding support among all involved in the building agreement that a symbiotic relationship between the two teams and the neighborhoods surrounding their new practice facility can be formed as a consequence of the deal.

While being interviewed by Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Post, Randall Boe, executive vice president and general counsel for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, said that the conditions surrounding the deal are not totally decided.

“It’s not a completely done deal yet. We’re still working on it but there are still negotiations ongoing,” Boe said.

When the negotiations are settled, the building will began and the practice facility has a planned opening of late 2018.