Alexandria officials host Potomac Yard pop-up; discuss sports, entertainment district

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DC News Now) — Alexandria city and economic officials set up a pop-up event at the Potomac Yard Metro Station during rush hour on Wednesday evening, designed to engage concerned, skeptical and curious Alexandrians about the proposal to build a new entertainment district in the area.

The proposal, which is centered around a new home for the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals, has a price tag of about $2 billion.

It’s currently pending approval from lawmakers in Richmond, which faces hurdles. An initial bill establishing a Sports and Entertainment Authority for the arena was killed in the Senate. Now, it’s being proposed as part of the state’s budget. The House passed its budget bill with the arena in it; the Senate did so without it.

Now, a small group of lawmakers are working behind closed doors to reach a consensus on a budget proposal.

“I’m watching, listening, and waiting to hear what’s happening in Richmond,” said Alexandria City Councilmember Alyia Gaskins. She is running for mayor.

While that happens in Richmond, Alexandrians discussed two of the most talked about topics related to the plan: transportation and money. The dialogue occurred during the pop-up event with several people stopping to talk.

“I do feel it was a productive conversation,” said Marie Schilling, an Alexandria resident. “But I think transportation and infrastructure has been wildly underrated and under-discussed.”

Jona Pounds said her input to city officials was, “Why are we spending money on professional sports when we’re not doing enough for average citizens?”

Steps away from the city’s information session, members of the opposition group Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard discussed the plan with folks, too.

They have previously rallied in both Alexandria and Richmond, urging lawmakers to oppose the plan.

Gaskins told DC News Now she has not decided how she’ll vote if it does make its way through Richmond and to the city council — suggesting she wants to see what the legislation looks like.

“I think we’d be crazy not to consider the potential economic impacts… but also, what are going to be the additional investments in transportation, in housing, and labor,” she said.

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