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The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Arena Deal In Jeopardy After State Legislature Blocks Funding

General Assembly says no to the “Glenndome,” but lawmakers will reconvene April 17.
Governor+Glenn+Youngkin+says+the+Senate+is+making+a+mistake+by+rejecting+the+financing+for+a+plan+that+would+allow+a+newly+created+statewide+authority+to+own+the+proposed+arenas+land+and+lease+it+to+Monumental+Sports+and+Entertainment.+%2F+Photo+by+Michael+Lee+Pope
Governor Glenn Youngkin says the Senate is making a mistake by rejecting the financing for a plan that would allow a newly created statewide authority to own the proposed arena’s land and lease it to Monumental Sports and Entertainment. / Photo by Michael Lee Pope

The bid to bring two professional sports teams to Alexandria is in serious trouble now that Virginia legislators did not enable funding for the proposed $2.2 billion arena in the state budget. That would have been the easiest path forward for the project, leaving the only possible avenues a budget amendment or potential special session later this year.

Chiding the decision as a “colossal mistake” Republican governor Glenn Youngkin dug into lawmakers during a press conference in the final hours of the General Assembly session in front of the Capitol.

“Through this whole process, I have shown an absolute, repeated willingness to consider many priorities of the General Assembly,” Youngkin said. “On the other hand, the Senate refused to give the single-largest economic development deal in Virginia’s history any serious, meaningful consideration.”

Watching the conference from above on the capitol building’s steps was senator L. Louise Lucas (D–18), who led the opposition to the plan in the General Assembly.

“It’s just not a good deal,” Lucas said. “I just stood firm on what I believe in my heart to be in the best interest of the commonwealth, and that was just to say ‘no’ to the Glenndome.”

Lucas, who chairs the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, previously blocked two arena bills from appearing on her committee’s docket, and she did not allow consideration for the proposal in Senate budget discussions. As she and a select few lawmakers attended closed-door conferences to resolve differences between each chamber’s version of the state budget, Lucas again prevented its inclusion.

“I feel fantastic,” Lucas told reporters as budget negotiations were winding down. “We were able to, I think, save the taxpayers a ton of money by not putting the full faith and credit of the commonwealth behind that project.”

State Senator L. Louise Lucas refused to put arena legislation on the agenda for the Senate Finance Committee, so the Senate adjourned without ever debating the proposal or voting on it. / Photo by Michael Lee Pope

Lucas’s efforts were to the dismay of Youngkin, who called her, though not by name, the plan’s “single roadblock.” 

Conversely, some Alexandrians applaud her undertakings. 

“We are very thankful for Senator Louise Lucas’s leadership on this issue,” said Andrew Macdonald, co-founder of the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard and former vice mayor of Alexandria. “[The plan] was a bad public investment that would not improve our quality of life or our finances … I consider [the news] a win for the DC region.”

But those who helped put the proposal together, such as Monumental Sports & Entertainment — the company that would own the arena — and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, aren’t happy. 

“We are disappointed in the legislature’s decision not to fully consider a proposal that promises transformative benefits for Alexandria and the entire commonwealth,” read a statement from Monumental Opportunity, the company’s community engagement project for the arena.

“When introducing the framework agreement in December, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and city of Alexandria leadership were firm in our expectation that the city of Alexandria deserves the opportunity to evaluate the entertainment district proposal locally,” said president and CEO of the partnership Stephanie Landrum. “We believe that the project continues to be worthy of consideration in Alexandria, and we remain hopeful that there is a path forward for that conversation.”

Although Lucas’s actions have impeded the plan, it still has several pathways to adoption. The General Assembly will reconvene April 17 to act on bills vetoed or amended by Youngkin, who is expected to submit revisions incorporating the proposal into the budget. Youngkin could also call a special legislative session and put forward a standalone arena bill, but in both scenarios, each chamber would have to approve the plan. The proposal would have been far more likely to pass if it were part of the budget, which is generally approved with bipartisan support. 

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, nevertheless, has high hopes.

“Our perspective from the beginning has been that this is a unique and transformational economic development opportunity for the city,” Wilson said. “We will continue to engage with policymakers in Richmond to ensure that Alexandrians ultimately get to consider a final version of this proposal.”

Macdonald agrees the plan still has time left on the clock.

“We are not relaxing our guard until the final buzzer sounds on April 17, when the budget will be approved and possibly amended,” he said.

Even if the proposal gets approval at the state level, members of the Alexandria City Council would also have their say on the matter. While most council members have spoken in favor of the arena, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson recently became one of the first member to publicly express opposition earlier this month.

“Fully expected it,” Jackson posted on social media after news broke that the budget would not include funding for the proposal. “It was not ready for prime time. Let’s start discussing another path for an entertainment district without an arena but [one that] will have affordable family-centric activities for our youth and families!” 

Macdonald also spoke on the potential for alternative urbanization projects in the area.

“I think there are other development options that will result in far fewer environmental and quality of life impacts, and create a more sustainable revenue stream,” he said. “There needs to be development in Potomac Yard, but a sportsplex is simply not suitable for Alexandria.”

Results from a recent poll of Del Ray, Hume Springs, Lynhaven and Rosemont residents conducted jointly by the neighborhood civic associations seem to agree that the City is not ready for an arena.

The survey, which had 496 respondents, found that 58 percent oppose the project, 29 percent support it, 12 percent have mixed opinions and less than 1 percent are unsure.

“[Arena proponents] failed to prove this was a good public investment,” said Macdonald. “The city failed to engage the community from the start in a meaningful way, preferring instead to ignore public concerns and hire lobbyists (using our local tax dollars) to push the bill through the General Assembly.”

Wilson says he agrees that more work must be done to get residents on board.

“There are still many details on transportation, neighborhood protection, land-use and beyond that must be addressed in a collaborative community process,” he said.

According to Landrum, the partnership is open to community input as well.  

“Should the project move forward,” she said, “we welcome all feedback on how to make sure its implementation is successful.”

But until at least April 17, the plan is stuck in a rut.

“Our hope is that Alexandrians will be able to make the decision about whether this moves forward,” said Wilson. “For that to happen, we need the General Assembly to take action.”

A version of this article appeared in the March 13 edition of the Alexandria Gazette Packet.
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