Former congressman who fought attempt to build football stadium concerned about proposed Alexandria arena

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Former Alexandria mayor and U.S. congressman Jim Moran, who once helped lead the charge to prevent the Washington football team from building a stadium in Potomac Yard in the early 1990s, has concerns about building an arena there for the Washington Capitals and Wizards.

“My initial reaction was déjà vu,” he said.

In 1992, former Washington football team owner Jack Kent Cooke said he would bring the team to Alexandria.

“We are going to build a stadium here in Potomac Yard,” he said. “We will have that stadium ready for the 1994 season, and nothing is going to stop it."

Ultimately, the deal was stopped. Moran, who served in Congress at the time after serving as mayor of Alexandria fought to kill that deal.  

"Gov. [Glenn] Youngkin has thought through this better than Gov. [Doug] Wilder did at the time, so it is a different situation,” Moran said. “But having said that, there are three somewhat problematic issues that have to be addressed."

Those concerns have echoed through Potomac Yard, Del Ray and surrounding neighborhoods for the past seven days since the arena was proposed: traffic, culture and finances.

Since the announcement, the Alexandria Economic and Development Partnership has offered few details about the financing, though city staff and Mayor Justin Wilson maintain the project wouldn't cost the city any money up front.

“We are not using the money, city tax dollars,” Wilson said.

The city says it will release a financial study conducted by JPMorgan sometime this week. So far, the city manager said Alexandria will spend about $106 million to cover portions of the proposed performance center and underground parking garage.

The Alexandria Economic and Development Partnership has not responded to News4’s questions about whether that money is upfront or to be paid back over time.

City officials say the next step is expected this week when a new piece of legislation is pre-filed ahead of next month's General Assembly session. The bill would establish a Virginia Stadium Authority that would own the land, the buildings and manage the money of the $2 billion project.

Moving the Capitals and Wizards to Virginia first requires approval by the state legislature and the Alexandria City Council. Alexandrians will vote to elect a new mayor and city council in November, so it's possible some of the city council’s votes come just before or just after that election.

Moran also worries about the impact a move would have on the teams’ current neighborhood.

“It will almost implode there around Gallery Place and Chinatown,” he said. “I really worry about that."

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