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DC To Spend Tens Of Millions On WNBA Arena In City’s Poorest Neighborhood

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The District of Columbia is slated to spend upwards of $30 million in public money on a 5,000 seat arena for its WNBA franchise at the former St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast.

While all the details haven’t been hammered out, the city would build and own the facility while the team’s owner would either pay rent or an up front payment, The Washington Post reports.

Events DC, the city’s quasi-public sports authority, approved $32.5 million in funding for the project which will reportedly cost around $56 million total.

The owner of the Washington Mystics, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, and the D.C. government would cover the rest of the tab for the sports complex, which will also house a practice facility for the Washington Wizards, according to Washington Business Journal.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has committed to funding less than half of the new building with city funds, the Post reports.

The city will also provide infrastructure for the future arena, including parking, lighting and utilities, while Events DC will build the facility.

Moving the facility to the Congress Heights neighborhood, east of the Anacostia River, is expected to bring a needed economic boost to a part of the city that largely missed out on the recent development boom.

Dave Oberting, executive director of Economic Growth DC, a non-profit dedicated growing the local DC economy, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that new sports facilities aren’t built to make the city money, but instead to spur growth around the new area.

“You build sports stadiums for other reasons – competitiveness, prestige, and most of all to catalyze development in neighborhoods that wouldn’t otherwise get it,” he said. “It worked in Chinatown with the Verizon Center, it worked in the Navy Yard with Nationals Stadium, and it will work to a degree at St. Elizabeths.”

Events DC built and owns Nationals Stadium, while Monumental Sports & Entertainment owns the Verizon Center, where the Mystics currently play their games. Monumental also owns the Wizards and Capitals franchises.

Oberting said that whether the money is well spent comes down to the person judging, though he believes it will be a good deal in the long run.

“I happen to believe that catalyzing development of a neighborhood with a sports arena works, but let’s not pretend it’s a good financial deal for the District,” he said. “The money is worth spending even though it’s not a good deal.”

Bowser has made sports stadiums part of her plan to revitalize the city. Earlier this summer she announced a deal with the city’s soccer franchise that would build the team a new stadium at Buzzard Point, near Nationals Park.

The city will put up half of the $300 million in construction costs for the soccer stadium, while the club will put up the other half.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.