Developer Behind Fairfax Casino Effort Tried to Woo Ted Leonsis With Arena

Posted on: March 25, 2024, 08:24h. 

Last updated on: March 26, 2024, 08:30h.

The real estate development company behind an unsuccessful effort to bring a commercial casino to Fairfax County, Va. in the Tysons area also failed to lure billionaire Ted Leonsis to support the initiative. The aborted offer included offering the NBA Wizards and NHL Capitals owner a new arena.

Fairfax casino Ted Leonsis Potomac Yard
Billionaire Ted Leonsis sits courtside watching his NBA Washington Wizards in December 2023. Leonsis was unmoved by a pitch from the developers behind a possible casino in Fairfax County to build a new sports arena in Tysons. (Image: ESPN)

Leonsis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) are campaigning to use taxpayer dollars to help relocate the billionaire’s Washington, D.C.-based professional sports teams, which include the WNBA Washington Mystics, about five miles south to Potomac Yard in Alexandria. The project is wildly unpopular among area residents. But Youngkin is pressing forward in what many political observers believe is the Republican’s bid to create a legacy development.

The Washington Post reported over the weekend that Comstock Companies and Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) offered Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment a sports arena to be included in the Tysons casino pitch.

As this [Potomac Yard] project has imploded in the last three weeks … one of the concepts that I floated was the possibility of merging the arena with a Northern Virginia casino and using the casino tax revenue to backstop the bonds instead of the state’s general fund,” Surovell explained. “Monumental was not a fan, and that was the end of the conversation.”

The Potomac Yard Entertainment District is being proposed just south of Reagan International Airport. The $2 billion scheme includes a multiuse professional sports arena, practice facilities, a performing arts center, and a media studio for Leonsis’ Monumental Sports Network.

DC for Alexandria

Leonsis is willing to depart the nation’s capital and his Capital One Arena in favor of Potomac Yard. Youngkin is committed to helping Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment open a best-in-class complex.

Washington, D.C. city officials continue to scramble to offer funds to improve Capital One Arena, a downtown venue east of the White House. Leonsis owns the building, though the city owns the land underneath it.

In December, District leaders, including Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), made an 11th-hour pitch of $500 million for upgrades to the facility. But it wasn’t enough for Leonsis to fold on Potomac Yard.

Much of Alexandria, a wealthy independent city, is opposed to the project. Concerns cited include increased traffic to the already congested area, financial liabilities, and the environmental impact. One group opposed to the project, “Stop the Arena,” also says taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to “heavily subsidize a billionaire.” 

Casino Deal Breaker

Monica Dixon, the president of external affairs for Monumental, told the Post that Comstock and Surovell indeed reached out about considering an arena in Tysons adjacent to a casino resort. She said it was a nonstarter.

At no time, have we ever or would we ever consider operating alongside a casino, period,” Dixon said. “Our proposal in Alexandria at Potomac Yard provides our fans, players, employees, and the people of this region the best opportunity for winning teams and a great economic impact. While we are disappointed in how this has played out, we hope our proposal will get a fair hearing.”

The Virginia General Assembly left out the $2 billion Potomac Yard project from the 2024-2026 biennium budget it passed last week. Youngkin is expected to call a special session to finalize the spending blueprint, with the Potomac Yard scheme likely to receive further consideration.