Wizards ex­pect D-League team by 2018-19

Plans for sports arena, prac­tice fa­cil­ity still in­tact

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

One dump truck was stalled out Wed­nes­day along Alabama Av­enue South­east in Ward 8, its hood flipped for­ward to show an en­gine un­done by a press­ing work­load.

Oth­er­wise, sec­tions of the St. El­iz­a­beths Hospi­tal cam­pus were cov­ered with every in­di­ca­tion of con­struc­tion. Flatbed trucks, tem­po­rary wire fenc­ing, piles of rub­ble.

One por­tion of the cam­pus re­mains the same: That’s the vaulted sec­tion where the city, Events DC and Mon­u­men­tal Sports and En­ter­tain­ment an­nounced plans for a sports and en­ter­tain­ment arena back in Septem­ber of 2015. The mayor, bal­loons and Bradley Beal were part of the fes­tiv­i­ties that day.

Eigh­teen months later, the plans for that project re­main mov­ing for­ward, though a front-end loader is yet scoop out a chunk of soil to be­gin arena con­struc­tion.

At the 2015 an­nounce­ment, Mayor Muriel Bowser touted the com­ing fa­cil­ity: a small sports and en­ter­tain­ment arena dropped into the mid­dle of Ward 8. The per­son­nel com­mit­ment from Mon­u­men­tal, a Ted Leon­sis com­pany, was sig­nif­i­cant, even if the firm’s fi­nan­cial stake was not. The Wash­ing­ton Wizards would use the prac­tice fa­cil­ity ad­ja­cent to the arena. The Wash­ing­ton Mys­tics would train and play their home games there. Mon­u­men­tal would also place a D-League team in the fa­cil­ity.

Those plans re­main in­tact. Events DC — which is re­spon­si­ble for con­struc­tion of the build­ing, Mon­u­men­tal is just leas­ing the space — projects a Septem­ber 2018 open­ing. Work is ex­pected to be­gin in early June. Keep­ing to that time­line is cru­cial for the Wizards’ plans there.

Wizards train­ing camp be­gan Sept. 29 last sea­son, mean­ing work in the 2018-19 sea­son would start in Ward 8 should the time­line hold. Open­ing the fa­cil­ity in Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber would also al­low a

D-League team to be­gin play in the 201819 sea­son. Mon­u­men­tal ex­pects to have a D-League team in place at that point.

“We look for­ward to bring­ing our teams to the new fa­cil­ity when it is com­pleted in the fall of 2018,” a Mon­u­men­tal Sports spokesper­son said in a state­ment. “Mon­u­men­tal Sports and En­ter­tain­ment is ex­cited to be a ten­ant at the new St. El­iz­a­beths cam­pus and in ad­di­tion to bring­ing bas­ket­ball to the com­mu­nity, we are com­mit­ted to in­vest­ing in the growth and eco­nomic devel­op­ment of Ward 8. We hope that other busi­nesses in the D.C. com­mu­nity will join us and do the same.”

Arena con­fig­u­ra­tion and costs have both changed slightly. The arena will hold 4,200 seats in a split-bowl setup (down from 5,000 seats in a sin­gle bowl con­fig­u­ra­tion). The cost pro­jec­tion has moved from $55 mil­lion to $65 mil­lion, in part be­cause of the change in con­fig­u­ra­tion. Mon­u­men­tal Sports’ con­tri­bu­tion has re­mained the same.

Fund­ing over the course of the 19-year lease in­cludes an in­vest­ment by the city of nearly $23 mil­lion, plus $37 mil­lion from Events DC, an event-man­ag­ing arm of the city that will also be re­spon­si­ble for the con­struc­tion of the new fa­cil­ity. Ted Leon­sis’ Mon­u­men­tal Sports will put up to $5 mil­lion to­ward con­struc­tion and “an ad­di­tional $10 mil­lion for St. El­iz­a­beths re­de­vel­op­ment and com­mu­nity phi­lan­thropic in­vest­ments.”

When the project was first touted in Septem­ber of 2015, D-League Pres­i­dent Mal­colm Turner said teams usu­ally need a 12- to 18-month lead time to launch a team and busi­ness around it. Mon­u­men­tal will have the ad­van­tage of mix­ing an ex­ist­ing team and brand in with the DLeague team at the same fa­cil­ity.

The Septem­ber 2018 tar­get date for “sub­stan­tial com­ple­tion” to oc­cur, pro­vid­ing a cer­tifi­cate of oc­cu­pancy op­por­tu­nity, puts Mon­u­men­tal in line to be pur­chas­ing a D-League team soon. Around the NBA, 26 of 30 fran­chises now own a D-League team. De­spite mul­ti­ple sea­sons when a di­rect af­fil­i­a­tion with a team would have been ben­e­fi­cial, Wash­ing­ton will be among the last in the league to ac­quire what equates to a mi­nor-league fran­chise.

The Wizards would have re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit from a D-League team last sea­son. They started the sea­son with three un­drafted free agents at the back of their ros­ter. Shel­don Mac, Danuel House and Daniel Ochefu watched through­out the sea­son. House was re­leased March 1 to cre­ate ros­ter space. Mac made mul­ti­ple trips to the D-League. Ochefu played 75 min­utes all sea­son.

In­stalling a D-League team so close will al­low the Wizards con­ti­nu­ity in coach­ing from Scott Brooks down. Sys­tems will re­main the same. The team’s pre­ferred prospects will play the ma­jor­ity of the min­utes in­stead of be­ing on a team with a group of other un­af­fil­i­ated play­ers try­ing to make it to the NBA out of the D-League crab bucket. Brooks has noted mul­ti­ple times dur­ing his first sea­son as Wizards coach the im­por­tance of a D-League fran­chise.

Mon­u­men­tal, Events DC and the city tout the com­ing arena as a jobs en­gine and com­mu­nity changer for oft-ig­nored Ward 8. In a com­mu­nity meet­ing last week, some Congress Heights res­i­dents ex­pressed their dis­plea­sure with the amount of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the devel­op­ment fac­tions and the com­mu­nity at large. One pre­vail­ing word hanged in the air amid the com­plaints: gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Events DC pres­i­dent and CEO Gre­gory O’Dell lis­tened to the is­sues. He was pleased that the arena devel­op­ment plans had re­cently moved past lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles like ap­proval from the Com­mis­sion on Fine Arts and His­toric Preser­va­tion Re­view Board. He said he knew from the be­gin­ning that not all res­i­dents would be pleased with every as­pect of the project.

“The feed­back that we got, frankly, was mixed,” O’Dell said. “Some peo­ple were happy with the projects. Oth­ers felt like we had not en­gaged them. I tried to lis­ten to the con­cerns whether we fully en­gaged every­body. I con­cede it’s never a per­fect process in terms of out­reach, but I wanted to do two things. One, com­mit that we would im­prove on our out­reach if those in the com­mu­nity feel we haven’t done suf­fi­cient out­reach, but also try to main­tain some in­tegrity to the process we have fol­lowed.”

One of the mar­ket­ing lines Events DC has used dur­ing the process is, “Big­ger than bas­ket­ball.” That’s true for the com­mu­nity and the re­vamp­ing of St. El­iz­a­beths sprawl­ing 346-acre cam­pus.

For the Wizards, Mys­tics and a prospec­tive D-League team, this project is very much about bas­ket­ball. In 18 months, those three teams ex­pect to have a new fa­cil­ity, one that will give the Mys­tics their home, the Wizards a nearby train­ing fa­cil­ity and fi­nally de­liver a D-League team.


Work should be­gin soon on an en­ter­tain­ment com­plex and sports arena, in­clud­ing a prac­tice fa­cil­ity for the Wash­ing­ton Wizards, on the St. El­iz­a­beths East cam­pus.

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