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The Wizards and Capitals aren't leaving DC anymore. What happened?

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Washington, D.C.'s pro basketball and hockey teams will stay in their downtown Washington arena instead of building a brand-new one across the Potomac in Alexandria, Va. The announcement came after the Virginia deal stalled in the state's General Assembly and after the city of Alexandria said it was backing out of the negotiations. Margaret Barthel from member station WAMU is here to tell us about how this all went down. Hey, Margaret.

MARGARET BARTHEL, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so what exactly happened yesterday with this deal?

BARTHEL: Yeah. So the city of Alexandria put out a statement late afternoon yesterday saying that they had decided to pull out of negotiations to bring the Washington Wizards and the Capitals to a new arena in the city. And then a few hours later, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser held a victory lap press conference...

CHANG: (Laughter).

BARTHEL: ...With Ted Leonsis. He's the CEO of Monumental Sports, which owns the teams. Leonsis said the teams would commit to staying in D.C. until 2050 in exchange for public support for renovations for Capital One Arena. That's the existing one. And so this is really the end of the road for plans to build a new arena in Alexandria, which Leonsis and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced, to much fanfare, in December. So lots of back-and-forth.

CHANG: Wait - so after all that fanfare, why did the Virginia arena plan just die?

BARTHEL: Yeah. Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson blamed partisan warfare in Richmond, and there certainly was plenty of bickering back-and-forth between Youngkin - he's a Republican - and the General Assembly, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats. Youngkin wasn't really able to win over the support of the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Louise Lucas, who had concerns about the more than $1 billion in public subsidies that were included in the Virginia plan. And so she kept her committee from voting on the bill, and she also kept it out of the General Assembly budget. So Youngkin and Republicans blame Lucas for blocking the proposal from even getting a vote. But Democrats say, you know, he wasn't really willing to compromise on aspects of the deal or on other Democratic priorities in play during the legislative session.

CHANG: All right. Well, meanwhile, how's D.C. reacting to all of this?

BARTHEL: Yeah, D.C. officials are thrilled. They really see this as a bright spot in a downtown which has struggled to recover from the pandemic. And here's D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser celebrating.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MURIEL BOWSER: We are the home, the current home, and the future home of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards.

(APPLAUSE)

BARTHEL: Yeah, Bowser and Leonsis said they've been meeting regularly, and they've really been able to work out some of his concerns about public safety near the arena and other issues. D.C. has offered a $515 million cash payment for renovations to Capital One. And it looks like the D.C. council will likely vote to approve that next week. That'll have, you know, different improvements that will make the fan experience better. And, you know - and just generally, I would say, this is an outcome that a lot of fans wanted. You know, people really like going downtown for games, and now that's not going to change.

CHANG: Congrats to them. That is Margaret Barthel from member station WAMU. Thank you so much, Margaret.

BARTHEL: You're so welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF SANTANA'S "SOUL SACRIFICE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
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