How the Monumental proposal stacks up: Comparing existing two-sport arenas

How the Monumental proposal stacks up: Comparing existing two-sport arenas
A rendering to show the proposed arena development in relation to Washington, D.C. and Arlington. (Rendering/JBG Smith)

By Ryan Hopper 

Alexandrians are debating the merits of Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s proposed sports complex development in Potomac Yard. With unresolved questions surrounding the ultimate level of public funding that will be needed, it is important to factor in the history of dual-purpose arenas in North America.

Many arenas that have been built across the country house multiple teams, often owned by the same individual or group. Ted Leonsis, majority owner of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, seeks to do so in Alexandria.

In 1997, the MCI Center, now known as the Capital One Arena, was privately financed by former Wizards and Capitals owner Abe Pollin and built in Washington, D.C., above the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station. But, both franchises being under the same ownership is not a prerequisite for a cooperative dual-purpose arena venture.

All 10 dual-purpose arenas in the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League are in downtown areas in their respective cities. An arena complex in Potomac Yard, while technically an urban area, would be a departure from this norm.

Here is a complete list of the 10 dual-purpose basketball and hockey arenas, including the public financing, or lack thereof, that funded construction.

Madison Square Garden

  • Location: Midtown Manhattan, New York, New York
  • Franchises: New York Rangers and New York Knicks.
  • Ownership: James L. Dolan, owner of Madison Square Garden Sports Corp.
  • Year built: 1968. It’s the oldest building in the NBA and the second oldest in the NHL.
  • Construction cost: $1.1 billion, including two major renovations in 1991 and 2013.
  • Funding: Ownership was granted a property tax exemption in 1982 that a city report estimates has cost the city $947 million in potential revenue in 2023 dollars.

TD Garden

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Franchises: Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics.
  • Ownership: Separate. Jeremy M. Jacobs owns the Bruins and Wyc Grousbeck owns the Celtics.
  • Year built: 1995
  • Construction cost: $160 million, with a $100 million renovation in 2019.
  • Funding: According to a New York Times article from May 1992, the facility was financed by three New England banks via loans to Delaware North Companies Inc., which is owned by Jacobs. TD Garden is still privately owned and financed by Delaware North, according to the facility’s website.

Wells Fargo Center

  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Franchises: Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia 76ers.
  • Ownership: Comcast Spectacor was founded by Ed Snider, who founded the Flyers. In 2011, Comcast Spectacor sold the 76ers to a consortium led by Josh Harris, who is the figurehead of the Washington Commanders new ownership group.
  • Built: 1996
  • Construction cost: $210 million. The arena is undergoing a $400 million renovation.
  • Funding: Largely privately financed, but the city and state governments helped pay for local infrastructure.

Ball Arena

  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Franchises: Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets.
  • Ownership: Same. Previous ownership built the arena and sold both franchises to Kroenke Sports & Entertainment the next year.
  • Built: 1999
  • Construction cost: $187 million
  • Funding: Exclusively privately funded; however, the city cut the arena’s property taxes and a seat tax used at the previous McNichols Arena, resulting in a $40.5 million revenue decrease. The city also funded $4.5 million for infrastructure near the arena.

American Airlines Center

  • Location: Dallas, Texas
  • Franchises: Dallas Stars and Dallas Mavericks.
  • Ownership: Separate. Thomas Gaglardi owns the Stars and Miriam Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, recently acquired the Mavericks from Mark Cuban. Center Operating Company, L.P., owns the arena and is co-owned by Cuban and Gaglardi.
  • Built: 2001
  • Construction cost: $420 million
  • Funding: Public-private partnership. In 1998, voters approved a $125 million arena construction package funded by a new 5% car rental and a 2% hotel tax.

United Center

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Franchises: Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls.
  • Ownership: Separate. Danny Wirtz owns the Blackhawks and Jerry Reinsdorf owns the Bulls.
  • Built: 1994
  • Construction cost: $175 million. It has since undergone renovations.
  • Funding: Privately funded with the city contributing some infrastructure improvements.

Little Caesars Arena

  • Location: Detroit, Michigan
  • Franchises: Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.
  • Ownership: Separate. The Ilitch family owns the Red Wings, and Tom Gores owns the Pistons. The Ilitch’s founded Little Caesars Pizza.
  • Built: 2017
  • Construction cost: $862.9 million
  • Funding: About 62%, nearly $539 million, is private funds. $324 million was government-financed, according to The Detroit News. Public funds came from taxpayer-backed construction bonds, which sparked controversy and legal action. Arena

  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Franchises: Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
  • Ownership: Separate. The Kings are owned by Philip Anschutz and Ed Roski. The Lakers are owned by the Buss Family Trusts, and the Clippers are owned by Steve Ballmer.
  • Built: 1999
  • Construction cost: $375 million
  • Funding: According to Lakers Nation, the project was funded through private investments, loans and public bonds. The city of Los Angeles paid $70 million for the project, which was to be repaid, but the obligation was dropped in 2003.

Scotiabank Arena

  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Franchises: Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.
  • Ownership: Same, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
  • Built: 1999
  • Construction cost:$288 million
  • Funding: Exclusively privately financed. $13 million in public infrastructure was built in conjunction with the project, according to the arena’s website.

Capital One Arena

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Franchises: Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards.
  • Ownership: Same, Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
  • Built: 1997
  • Construction cost: $200 to $220 million
  • Funding: The construction of the building was privately financed by former Wizards and Capitals owner Abe Pollin. According to the Washington Post, another $60 million was put up by the district to prepare for the building. Another $50 million was given as a subsidy to upgrade the scoreboard in 2007.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment, led by Leonsis, is estimated to receive a record $1.5 billion in bond revenue for the $2.2 billion project from the Commonwealth of Virginia. About $1 billion in bond revenue will be gradually repaid by new tax revenues from the project while the remaining $416 million in bonds would be repaid through rent paid by the Capitals and Wizards.

Pending approval from Council, the city would commit $106 million for the entertainment venues, according to the project website. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Virginia Secretary of Finance Stephen Cummings are adamant taxes will not be raised on Virginians due to this project.

“All project investments backed by the Commonwealth and the city will be paid back in full by incremental project revenues,” Cummings said in a press release. “There is no upfront investment by the Commonwealth and no existing taxes or tax increases are a part of this financing plan. This tremendous opportunity will drive billions in total economic impact over 40 years.”

Youngkin aides told The Washington Post that approximately $150 to $200 million would be appropriated upfront for transportation infrastructure improvements around the complex. Youngkin said these improvements would have been necessary regardless of what was built on the parcel of land currently owned by real estate developer JBG Smith.

“We know we’re going to have work to do on Glebe Road,” Youngkin said. “We know we are going to need improvements along Route 1 and interchanges. We’re going to have bike paths, we’re going to have buses and we know all of this is going to be done over the course of time … We always knew something else was going to go here.”

Youngkin and Cummings said tax revenue and rent paid by Monumental on the site would be enough to cover the project’s financing without additional taxes, according to a 37-page J.P. Morgan study produced for the state.

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, a public-private partnership that seeks to bring economic activity to the city, commissioned a report on the potential arena complex by HR&A Advisors in June 2023. A summary of the report released on Dec. 22, 2023, estimates the project will generate $7.9 billion in annual revenue and create 30,000 permanent jobs in Virginia.

The summary states the arena will host approximately 221 events annually, and the performing arts venue will host an additional 115 annual events, including 50 “non-concert private events.” The Capitals and Wizards each play 41 home games every regular season, with a maximum of 16 home playoff games per franchise. If neither franchise makes the playoffs, the arena would have to host 139 other events to meet the estimated 221 total.

It remains to be seen whether this proposal will be approved by Council and the General Assembly, with lawmakers in favor of the proposal – such as Youngkin and Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson – having to politically navigate opposition from other state lawmakers and from Alexandria residents, respectively.