Senate Version of Potomac Yard Arena Proposal Hits a Speedbump — or Roadblock?

Senate Version of Potomac Yard Arena Proposal Hits a Speedbump — or Roadblock?

Last November, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced his proposal to relocate the Washington Wizards NBA team and the Washington Capitals NHL team from DC across the river to a $2 billion arena to be built in the City of Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood. There is no question that the arena and entertainment district proposal, which also includes a separate 3,000 capacity concert venue, is a unique opportunity for Alexandria to diversify its tax base. 

The House of Delegates version of the bill, HB 1514, sponsored by Del. Luke Torian of Prince William was recommended on 17-3 vote by the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee for the consideration of the full House. 

The Senate cognate of that bill, SB 718, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell of Mount Vernon was not docketed for a hearing before this Tuesday’s crossover deadline for all bills to pass in their house of origin. Sen. Louise Lucas, chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee reasoned that the bill put too much risk on the Commonwealth, possibly leaving taxpayers on the hook for the bonds issued for financing. Lucas also pointed out that the project’s proposed financing was not viable without the public bond issuance. She also said it would be atypical and precedent-setting to use the Commonwealth’s contingent moral obligation debt to fund a private economic development project. 

Even though the bill has not yet been considered by the traditional pre-crossover deadline, the House version of the bill could advance and be considered by the Senate — and the Senate rules do allow for the governor to send down another bill at any time. The project was also included in the governor’s proposed budget. 

In my opinion, it is critical we don’t rush to approve a project that would impact generations of Virginians without answers to important questions. Three components must be in any bill I could consider supporting. First, the protection of the communities that would be most directly impacted – including a deep investment in affordable housing to avoid driving out families who live in nearby neighborhoods. Second, Northern Virginians need a real commitment from the Commonwealth to the long-term health of the Metro system. And third, I need confidence that the project would include meaningful and binding agreements to create good-paying jobs, in construction, service and hospitality through Project Labor and Labor Peace Agreements. 

The governor’s transportation report released from the Kimley Horn firm contains a number of potential improvements – most of which have merit. Unfortunately, the report, just like the governor's introduced budget released in December, includes zero commitment to long-term funding of the Metro system. Unfortunately, the only commitment the governor has mustered is one to consider budget amendments for short-term Metro funding. The report predicts that Metro could in the future support 50% of the arena traffic to Potomac Yard. Unfortunately, this could never be achieved unless Metro receives long-term, sustainable funding from the Commonwealth. 

As I said, for this proposal to win my vote, it must do three things. First, enhance the community's quality of life experience, not harm it. Second, provide good-paying jobs and careers. And third, the project must fit hand-in-glove with a long-term transportation vision for our thriving but traffic-choked region. I prefer that consideration of this proposal not be rushed because it is clear to me that adequate answers have not yet been provided to fundamental questions. 

For my part, as long as the Potomac Yard proposal is alive, I’ll keep pushing for answers on transportation, affordable housing, and worker protections. 

It is my continued honor to represent the people of the 39th Senate District. My legislative email address is