At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, a vocal critic of the public financing for the Washington Wizards practice facility, says she’s “extremely disappointed” that the estimated cost of the project has risen to $65 million “before construction has even begun.” She has proposed a bill that would cap the District’s contribution to the project.
“Even more concerning to me is that we will be spending more money for fewer seats, which means fewer fans, fewer jobs, and less benefit for Ward 8,” Silverman says in a statement. “Ward 8 has waited too long for economic investment, and we want to make sure every dollar we spend brings the highest return.”
When the District first announced a new partnership with Monumental Sports to build the practice facility for the Wizards on the St. Elizabeths campus last year, critics pounced on the fact that taxpayers would fund nine-tenths of the project’s $55 million price tag as part of the deal—and that the D.C.government would be on the hook for any cost overruns associated with the redevelopment of the defunct hospital area.
As the Washington Post reported yesterday, that estimated cost has grown to $65 million, largely because of design reconfigurations that would result in 800 fewer seats than the 5,000 initially proposed. On top of the $7.5 million extra that the new design will cost, Events DC told District lawmakers in a letter this week that $2.5 million is needed for contingencies such as complying with historic preservation requirements. The agency’s board must approve the changes next month. Architectural and programmatic costs for the arena that were included in the $55 million were only preliminary, Events DC said.
The new “split-bowl” shape for the facility “will allow us to move seats more close in and more vertical to a concert stage,” Events DC President Greg O’Dell told the Post. “If, in the final design, we can eek out a few more seats we will do that as well.” The site would also host entertainment events.
In March, Events DC Chairman Max Brown told City Paper that new costs could arise as the project progressed. “In development, you take a snapshot in time, you don’t know what you’re going to find, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he explained. The project is expected to create hundreds of jobs and generate close to $90 million in tax revenue for D.C. over 20 years. But some in Southeast worry that the redevelopment could displace them.
In February, Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off the demolition for the site.