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Leonsis: I’m Not Committed to Verizon Center

Washington WizardsTed Leonsis may be finding success as owner of multiple Washington, D.C. sports franchises as well as the Verizon Center, but he’s looking down the road to expanded media services and perhaps a future in a new arena.

Leonsis owns the Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Valor (arena football) and other sports and eSports teams under the Monumental Sports and Entertainment umbrella as well as the privately financed Verizon Center. The mortgage on Verizon Center will be paid off in seven years — freeing up some $36 million annually in loan payments — while a new naming-rights deal could come in 2018, and while Leonsis speaks well of the downtown arena, he’s also looking to the future and the possibility of building a new state-of-the-art facility. From the Washington Post:

“My inclination right now would be — it’s pretty awesome where we are,” Leonsis said Wednesday, the morning of the Wizards’ 2016-17 home opener. “And I love what’s happened to [downtown] D.C. But I don’t know what’s going to happen five, six, seven years from now. . . . I will be a free agent. I mean, that hasn’t been lost on me.”…

His “free agent” comment aside, Leonsis made it clear he is not actively seeking to leave downtown D.C., an area that has grown up around the franchises into a thriving, inner-city entertainment and shopping district. But neither would Leonsis commit to keeping the teams there.

“In terms of the Verizon Center, I’m being sincere: There’s been no discussions of would we look to move,” he said. “Have we talked to Virginia? We have not. Have we talked to Maryland? We have not. I would never do that. My goal would be stay where we are or stay within the city.”

That, of course, could mean several things. It’s unlikely Leonsis would leave things the way they are at Verizon Center once the mortgage is paid off: his background is in tech, and given the many advances in arena tech since Verizon Center was built, some sort of overhaul would be irresistible.  Then there’s the prime real estate opening up once RFK Stadium is torn down: the land is controlled by Events DC under an agreement with the National Park Service, and a new arena could certainly be part of future development there.

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