- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 5, 2016

Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said last week that plans for a new practice facility and arena in Ward 8 are moving forward.

Leonsis said he visited the site on May 30 and that excavation has begun. Construction for a $55 million, 118,000-square foot, 5,000-seat facility on the site of St. Elizabeths, the dilapidated former mental ward, is planned to begin this year and end in 2018.

Funding over the course of the 19-year lease includes an investment by the city of nearly $23 million, plus $27 million from Events DC, an event-managing arm of the city which will also be responsible for the construction of the new facility, and $5 million from Leonsis‘ Monumental Sports toward construction.

“I am reviewing some final plans with the city and DC Events,” Leonsis said late last week. “I’m expecting that it’s going to be a transformative event for us, not unlike what Kettler Capitals Iceplex did and meant for the [Washington Capitals].

“You look at the role Hershey has played within the Caps, I’m hoping what we do in Ward 8, where we’ll have a world-class practice facility, and then this 5,000-seat arena next door — where the Mystics will play, [and] our new D-League team once we conclude that deal — that having that kind of nexus, a bigger arena a couple miles away, a practice facility where our D-League team can play, that that will really solidify us as an organization.”

The Wizards are one of eight NBA teams without a D-League team. That prevents them from having a dedicated farm system for their players and coaches. It’s something new coach Scott Brooks thinks is vital.

“It gives our players that are not playing in games opportunities to play in games,” Brooks said when he was introduced as the Wizards’ new coach in April. “And, it gives our staff ability to watch them while they’re playing locally. Also, my belief is to have a connection. We are integrated. Whoever the coach will be, [he] will be able to come to all of our practices and all the games where he’s able to come and be in our locker room, be in our coaches meetings, because we’re all in it together.”

Leonsis emphasized that the city is responsible for constructing the new building, which he said his organization, the city and community all want.
“It’s never over until it’s over,” Leonsis said.

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