Why Washington’s sports teams should stay in Washington

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John A. Wilson Building

1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004


Phone: (202) 727-2643
Email: muriel.bowser@dc.gov

Chief of Staff:
Lindsey Parker

City Administrator:
Kevin Donahue

Director of the Mayor's Office of Legal Counsel:
Eugene Adams

Senior Advisor:
Beverly Perry

Director of Mayor's Office of Community Affairs:
Jackie Reyes-Yanes

Scheduling Requests:




















February 9, 2024

Letter from the Mayor

Dear Washingtonians,

This evening, I published an op-ed in The Washington Post about why DC's teams should stay in DC. You can read the full text below. 

Downtown D.C. is home to some of the most valuable and iconic gathering spaces in Greater Washington, the nation and the world. There is simply no place like it.

In the time since the late Abe Pollin made the courageous decision to invest in an urban arena and build an amazing fan experience, Capital One Arena’s central location has welcomed people from the far stretches of the region and world — including presidents and members of Congress — to catch a concert or game with family, friends and colleagues.

We’ve seen that arenas are great for cities. That’s why we’ve invested so much over the years to support this one. Since the District began our partnership with Pollin in 1997, we have provided below-market rents and offered millions of dollars in tax abatements. In 2007, the District gave the arena’s ownership group $50 million for building upgrades in exchange for keeping the teams in D.C. until 2047, an additional 20-year commitment. The city also built and funded the majority of a $65 million practice facility and home court for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, which opened in 2018.

Although it is true that post-covid work changes have meant fewer workers occupying downtown and suburban offices alike, that has not hindered Monumental Sports and Entertainment’s success at the Capital One Arena. According to Forbes, the Wizards, in which Monumental owner Ted Leonsis purchased a majority stake in 2010 for $310 million, are currently worth $3.5 billion — an 11-fold increase in value. Last year, the arena set two records: Drake became the first rapper to earn more than $5 million in a single U.S. arena concert and the Premier Boxing Champions broke the all-time gate record for ticket revenue. Despite economic headwinds and lean years for both the Capitals and the Wizards, Monumental’s revenue, valuations and profits are stronger than they have ever been, thanks to fans coming to D.C.

The city wants to keep that mutually beneficial success going, which is why we put forth such a strong offer to help with the next phase of the arena and the surrounding neighborhood.

After negotiating several offers over the better part of last year, D.C. offered Monumental $500 million to be paid in three tranches beginning this year, a deal that would have provided well more than half of the estimated $800 million cost of a complete renovation that better connects the arena to the surrounding neighborhood and businesses and brings the fan experience closer to the court. The result would be a new, more profitable, state-of-the-art urban arena, with improved corporate suites and more and better entertainment options. The city would leverage our AAA bond rating to borrow without raising taxes or displacing any planned capital projects. It is unequivocally a great deal for Monumental, with near total certainty and the lowest performance risk. In fact, the D.C. Council has already unanimously agreed to advance the deal, making the initial payment to start construction available within months of the bill passage.

Our deal would mean Monumental can avoid any broken promises, breached leases or potential litigation to distract from building the most valuable regional sports company. It would mean equitable construction spending and our continued support of the Service Employees International Union and Unite Here! Local 23 workers who earn good pay and benefits in D.C. Truthfully, we still don’t know whether the Virginia deal will cross the finish line or whether this gamble will work. Perhaps this is why Leonsis has not yet signed anything.

We’re proposing a deal that isn’t just good for downtown but is an exercise in true regionalism. The District has long supported regional governance in transportation, as funders and governing members of the boards of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and we understand that the regional transportation network is also experiencing its own post-pandemic moment. We should be building on the current infrastructure at Gallery Place and Metro Center, not asking the underfunded Metro system to approve capital expenses to accommodate a shifting use that entails no new users, just new expenses. Given that the Virginia site would interrupt Reagan National Airport traffic on game days, it is also not the moment to ask the airport to adjust flight patterns and schedules, clog already crowded roads or ask travelers to choose a different airport.

D.C. fans, sadly, are familiar with the broken promise of a shiny new stadium to replace the rocking stands of RFK and generations of family memories. But more broadly, we think fans from all over the region enjoy a night out in the city — for a ballgame, the theater or dinner at our award-winning restaurants. There is no replacement for the energy and history of a city, no sprawling development that can replace it, no building — no matter how new or shiny — that can replicate it.

Throughout this process, much has been said about the challenges of city life — street artists, for example, and crime. But I don’t believe for a minute that’s why Monumental has struck a handshake deal with Virginia. Their decision was about money and land. Period. Nor is it true that the District did not try hard enough. At every stage, we put forth the best deal we could offer at the time we could offer it.

On the contrary, Leonsis himself points to the goose bumps he got when seeing the undeveloped land as the reason for the move. But Downtown D.C. is ripe for development, too. While we can’t currently offer 12 acres of undeveloped land, we know there’s great potential to grow an urban campus with Monumental and other Leonsis companies right in the core of the city. New York’s Madison Square Garden is an example of an in-place renovation that provided just that.

We intend to keep our end of the bargain and enforce the leases with Monumental that require the Wizards and Capitals to play at the arena through 2047 and the Mystics to play in Congress Heights through 2037. If Monumental goes ahead and breaks its leases, the short-term impact will be tough, not only on the neighborhood, but on our entire city. But let me be clear: The city owns the land under the Capital One Arena and will own the building should Monumental break its lease.

In the long run, the future of the Chinatown neighborhood is bounded only by our willingness to think big. Our Gallery Place/Chinatown Task Force is already preparing for multiple paths forward. I am confident we will create an iconic D.C. destination experience akin to Union Market, the Yards, the Wharf or City Center — hopefully with Monumental Sports and Entertainment. I am also confident that whether we operate the current arena or build something new, we will continue to have a world-class concert venue in D.C.

It’s only right that D.C.’s teams stay in D.C. Leonsis has previously acknowledged the huge responsibility that comes with owning a team, saying “the teams really aren’t owned by me and my partners; they’re really owned by the city itself.” Now, I’m not a billionaire, but I do believe it’s possible to have enough money. A great legacy and reputation, however, are priceless.

Muriel Bowser

In This Week's Newsletter:


View photos from this week on Facebook.

Sunday: Celebrate Lunar New Year With Mayor Bowser


Walk with Mayor Bowser in the 2024 Lunar New Year Parade: On Sunday, head to Downtown DC to walk with Mayor Bowser in the Lunar New Year Parade and usher in the Year of the Dragon. This year’s parade will feature colorful and diverse contingents, a ceremony with traditional performances, and a firecracker finale.

  • When: Sunday, February 11, Line-up for parade at 12:30 p.m., kickoff for parade at 1:00 p.m.
  • Where: 6th Street NW & I Street NW
  • RSVP to attend the event HERE.

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Register for MBSYEP By March 6


The Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program application is now open for District youth ages 14 to 24. Young people interested in gaining work experience over the summer should apply at summerjobs.dc.gov by Wednesday, March 6.

Employers interested in hosting District youth should apply to participate by June 1. 

For over four decades, MBSYEP has employed thousands of District youth in summer jobs that provide them with both income and critical work experience. 

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Donate Blood on February 22


Last month, Mayor Bowser and DC Fire and EMS announced a new Whole Blood Program. Through this partnership, blood collected and supplied by the American Red Cross will be made available to Fire and EMS paramedics so that they can perform blood transfusions before a patient arrives at the hospital. The Whole Blood Program is designed to increase survival rates and clinical outcomes for patients suffering from traumatic injuries, hemorrhagic shock, or severe bleeding by decreasing the amount of time it takes to replace lost blood. 

Residents can support the program by donating blood at an upcoming blood drive in Ward 7:

  • When: Thursday, February 22 @ 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
  • Where: St. Luke’s Center (4923 East Capital Street SE)
  • Register for a time HERE.

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#BeDowntown: February Events


There are plenty of reasons to be Downtown this February, including these upcoming specials and events:

Be Downtown Specials: Over 40 restaurants across Downtown DC, with the support of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), are offering a variety of morning, lunch, and happy hour specials. Specials will run through March 31 and allow residents, visitors, and workers to explore the Downtown DC dining scene.

Additionally, 10 local coffee shops are offering a free cup of coffee to visitors each Monday through March 4. A full list of participating coffee shops and restaurants is available at BeDowntown.dc.gov.

DC Winter Hiring Fair: Join DC Department of Human Resources (DCHR) for a winter hiring event next Tuesday, February 13. The hiring fair will allow residents to explore nearly 600 career opportunities and some participating agencies will make on-the-spot job offers.

  • When: Tuesday, February 13 @ 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (901 G Street NW)
  • Registration for the hiring fair is available on-site.

Presidents’ Day Family Fun Day: Celebrate Presidents’ Day and all things presidential at the National Portrait Gallery. The event will include activities for all ages and will allow residents to learn more about America’s Presidents through guided tours and story times.

  • When: Saturday, February 17 @ 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
  • Where: National Portrait Gallery (800 G Street NW)
  • Register to attend HERE.

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