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  • Mitchell Kasdan

Wizards and Caps to Stay in DC, DespiteBudget Shortfall

DC has had to balance funding Capital One Arena renovations and other priorities, like funding WMATA / Credits: Mitchell Kasdan

In the early months of 2024, a proposed deal to move the Washington Wizards and Capitals across the Potomac River seemed almost inevitable. Key word: almost. On March 27, Ted Leonsis, owner of the Monumental Sports group that owns both the Wizards and Capitals, came to an agreement with the city of DC to cancel the move to Vir- ginia.

The agreement will have DC contrib- ute $550 million towards renovations to the teams’ Capital One Arena. In return, Leonsis will sign a 25-year lease to keep both teams in the District until 2050.

This is good news for almost every sports fan. While a new arena would have nicer amenities, the downtown Capital One Arena is much better at harnessing the ener- gy of a city in any potential playoff runs.

For some DC residents, however, the news comes at an inopportune time. The announcement of the deal came only one week from the budget hearing where Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed a budget that would result in painful staffing cuts for the large As APs Approach, Walls Counselor and Psychologist Give Advice majority of DCPS schools, including Walls losing nearly $250,000. The mayor’s budget would result in more crowded classes and limit students’ choices in taking classes.

This begs the question, what was the best choice for DC in this scenario? Was it a wise investment decision for the future of the city to spend so much money to keep two sports teams in the face of budget prob- lems?

Or would the money have had a greater impact on the daily life of a DCPS student if it was spent elsewhere?

“Realistically, I probably could have benefited more directly if the money was used for better transit or being put into

DCPS,” said Travis Tiller (‘24), a Washington Wizards fan who featured in a previous

Rookery article on this topic. However, he added “I think that saying money shouldn’t be used for one thing because other things need money is not a great way to look at things.”

Alex Benach (‘24), an occasional Capitals fan, disagreed, saying “to me it’s so ironic to have a discussion about school budget cuts while giving 500 million to sports teams.” He described the cost to DC as “a ridiculous amount of money.”

Tiller claimed that, “sports teams are in credibly important to a city, so keeping them here can be part of a multi-step and multi-approach plan to address other problems in the city, like DCPS shortcomings, or anything else really.” Benach saw it differently. “There are thousands of things that should happen before” funding the stadium deal, he said. “I’m not anti- the teams be- ing in DC... I just feel like there are bigger fish to fry with that money.”

Beyond DCPS, Mayor Bowser has said that many other government agencies will face budget cuts this year. At the same time, she has at- tempted to attract the Washington Commanders back to RFK stadium, which would likely require even more city funding for renovations.

While it might seem like an extravagant expense to keep the teams in the city, the teams also produce economically for DC. Every single ticket sale, food and drink purchase, and jersey sale benefits the city in the form of tax revenues. Tiller said “while we are facing a lot of issues with the budget... if the Wizards and/or Caps can be successful in the city, it will bring a lot of attention and money.” The stadium increases foot traffic to restaurants and other businesses in the area, and visits from away fans increase tourism revenue for the city. Playoff appearances, which are common in the NBA and NHL, can give a big boost economically to the city. “Sports teams bring in a ton of money, and if the city can capitalize on the money coming in, they could end up profiting from this move,” Tiller said.

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