Jessie Graff
Jessie Graff Credit: Matthew Hayward/NBC

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In a few months, the space inside the DC Armory will be transformed into an elaborate obstacle course designed specifically for some of the fittest athletes in the world when American Ninja Warrior, the popular competition show aired on NBC, makes it D.C. debut.

The effort to bring the event to the city has been five years in the making, according to Events DC chief executive Greg O’Dell.

“We’re going to be bold and bullish on being the sports entertainment capital of the world,” O’Dell says. “We want to host all kind of events, diverse programing … This was a great kind of event that hits a different demographic and it’s obviously well known. It also hits a sweet spot that attracts visitors to the city.”

Events DC, the convention and sports authority for D.C. that receives taxpayer money, and its tourism arm, Destination DC, had courted the show in previous years, but scheduling proved to be difficult.

It finally worked out this time and the ninth season of American Ninja Warrior will film at the DC Armory on April 6, 7, 11, and 12. Tickets are available for the public and O’Dell expects the venue to host the show for about 10 to 15 days inside the venue, which has a seating capacity of 10,000 for sporting events.

The show features multiple rounds of competition in cities around the country. Fans will be able to watch the taping of the regional competition and semifinals in D.C.

O’Dell says American Ninja Warrior will rent the facility, but declined to provide specifics about how much Events DC is expected to be paid, citing a license agreement.

Events DC has seen its portfolio grow in recent years with the opening of the Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA) in Ward 8, home of the reigning WNBA champion Washington Mystics.

But not all the organization’s events is intended to appeal to a local audience. O’Dell wants to attract out-of-town visitors, as well.

Next month, the ESA will host FIBA AmeriCup qualifying games, including a matchup between the U.S. men’s basketball team and Puerto Rico on Feb. 23. Two years ago, the Colonial Athletic Association signed an agreement with Events DC to host its men’s basketball tournament at ESA in 2020, 2021, and 2022. There are also plans for esports competitions at the venue.

When asked if local politicians or athletes might get involved with the filming of American Ninja Warrior, O’Dell demurred. 

“If not VIPs, we’ll do something locally,” he says. “We’ll just need to figure out what they may be … Anything’s possible. I don’t want to put myself in a box.”