Longshot Proposal Would Link Casino, Arena for Wizards and Capitals in Northern Virginia

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Edward Scimia

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Edward Scimia

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Last Updated on 26th March 2024, 06:00 PM

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Longshot Proposal Would Link Casino, Arena for Wizards and Capitals in Northern Virginia

Virginia politician Scott A. Surovell has pushed for a casino and arena combo built near Tysons, Virginia. (Image: Alamy)

A Virginia politician, a consultant, and a business executive are floating a plan that would combine a casino destination and an arena for Washington, D.C.’s professional sports teams in Fairfax County. Their only issue is that nobody else seems convinced by the plan.

Under the proposal, a new arena would be built near Tysons, Virginia, alongside a casino, with tax revenue from the casino used to guarantee the bonds needed to build the arena.

Proposal Seeks to Revive Northern Virginia Arena Plan

The proposal, which was reported by The Washington Post on Sunday, has been pushed by Virginia State Senate Majority Leader Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax). He’s been joined by Christopher Clemente, who serves as the chief executive of Comstock, the company that would build the casino, and Fairfax consultant Ben Tribbett, who has Surovell and Comstock among his clients.

The plan is designed as an alternative to Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s plan to build a $2 billion arena for the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards in Alexandria, Virginia. That plan itself has seen a lack of political support in the state, though backers are still trying to rescue the project before the General Assembly returns on April 17.

With that plan struggling to regain momentum, it seems that Surovell and his allies saw an opening to propose an alternative plan. However, the first obstacle came from team ownership. Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns both the Wizards and the Capitals, has said it has no interest in this alternative plan.

Ownership Balks at Operating Alongside Casino

Surovell told the Washington Post that he pitched the new idea to Monica Dixon, Monumental’s president of external affairs. According to Surovell, the proposal was soundly rejected, something Dixon confirmed to the newspaper.

“At no time, have we ever or would we ever consider operating alongside a casino, period,” Dixon wrote in an email to the Washington Post. “Our proposal in Alexandria at Potomac Yard provides our fans, players, employees and the people of this region the best opportunity for winning teams and a great economic impact.”

But while Surovell said he dropped the topic after that rejection, it seems that his allies have still been asking other stakeholders whether they would be interested in the proposal. According to the Washington Post, Clemente reached out to both Monumental owner Ted Leonsis and Matt Kelly, the chief executive of JBG Smith, the company that would potentially build the arena.

 Surovell also reached out to State Senator L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), a longtime supporter of gambling in Virginia. As of now, casino sites in West Virginia are legal, with only land-based operations available in Virginia.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” Lucas told the Washington Post. “That was some plan that Scott had come up with.”

Lucas has been the key figure blocking the proposal to build the arena in Alexandria. She has both prevented hearings for bills that would approve the arena and blocked the possibility of authorizing the arena through the state budget.

Any plan to move the Wizards and the Capitals to Virginia would also face strong opposition in Washington. While Monumental reached a non-binding agreement to move the teams to Northern Virginia as early as 2028, officials in D.C. say that the teams must fulfill their lease obligations at Capital One Arena, where both currently play.

“I am advising you that the District does not agree with your legal conclusion that MSE’s proposed arena move to Virginia does not violate or breach its legal obligations to the District,” Washington D.C. Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb wrote in a letter to Monumental last Monday. 

“Under the valid and enforceable terms of the 2007 legislation and agreements, MSE is obligated to keep the Wizards and Capitals at the Arena through 2047.”

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Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
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Ed Scimia is a freelance writer who has been covering the gaming industry since 2008. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with degrees in Magazine Journalism and Political Science. In his time as a freelancer, Ed has worked for About.com, Gambling.com, and Covers.com, among other sites. He has also authored multiple books and enjoys curling competitively, which has led to him creating curling-related content for his YouTube channel "Chess on Ice."

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