- - Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ted Leonsis hinted this would happen. The owner of the Washington Wizards was looking for a new practice facility for his NBA team. The club could also use a smaller home for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

Mr. Leonsis has found a location for a new facility, and construction for a $55 million, 118,000-square-foot, 5,000-seat facility at St. Elizabeths East in Ward 8 is slated to begin in 2016 and finish in 2018. 

Mr. Leonsis, District Mayor Muriel Bowser and Greg O’Dell, the president and CEO of Events DC, a quasi-public entity that manages venues in the District, will be among those at a Wednesday morning press conference to introduce the plan for the facility.

Funding over the course of the 19-year lease includes a District investment of nearly $23 million, plus $27 million from Events DC, which will be responsible for the construction of the new facility, and $5 million from Mr. Leonsis’ ownership group, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, toward construction.

An additional $10 million is earmarked for the redevelopment of St. Elizabeths, formerly the site of a mental hospital, and other “community philanthropic investments.”

According to the announcement, the arena will result in 380,000 annual new residents and visitors per year to Congress Heights and produce more than 600 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs for both the arena and Phase I infrastructure of St. Elizabeths East, with priority given to Ward 8 residents.

The arena is expected to host more than 90 nonbasketball events during the year. It will be operated by Events DC. The new complex is projected to produce $90 million in new tax revenues over 20 years.

“Today marks an important day for the District of Columbia and the people of Ward 8,” Ms. Bowser, a Democrat, said in a statement. “With this new development, we are driving private investment to the St. Elizabeths East campus, boosting the local economy, creating hundreds of jobs, and putting more District residents on their pathways to the middle class. This is a huge win for the District and yet another sign that Washington, D.C. is a city on the move.”

“We are extremely appreciative of the Mayor’s and Event DC’s collaboration and partnership with us,” Leonsis said in a statement.

The Wizards currently practice on a court located in Verizon Center, where they, and the Mystics, play home games. Most NBA practice facilities provide multiple full courts, as well as office and workout space. The Wizards have a single full-length floor on the other side of the hall from their locker room.

During this offseason, areas off the court in Verizon Center have been reworked. The media work room, among other spaces on the event level underneath the stands, has been restructured. Creating a new practice facility will free more space in the arena.

One of the questions remaining for the Wizards is if they will also use the facility as a home for an NBA D-League affiliate. The Wizards are one of 11 teams in the league that does not have a dedicated minor league team. The Indiana Pacers bought the Fort Wayne Mad Ants last week, absorbing the last D-League team without a single-team affiliation. The Wizards were one of 13 teams that could send players to Fort Wayne last season.

Entering the season, the Wizards will have a difficult time sending players to the D-League. If they want to assign a player to the lower league, another team must be willing to use a D-League roster spot on that player. If no team agrees, then the player is entered into a lottery system and placed onto one of the “hybrid” teams not owned by an NBA team.


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