So far, 2016 has been a great year for sports in Washington, D.C. The Capitals are in the second round of the playoffs, the Nationals have gotten off to a scorching-hot start and the George Washington University men’s basketball team won the National Invitation Tournament.
On top of all that, it feels like D.C. sports are just getting started.
Bryce Harper had one of the best seasons in baseball history last year, but, given such high hopes, the Nationals’ failure to make the playoffs made the season a disappointment. This year, Harper remains the brightest young star in baseball, and the Nationals are in first place. The team’s prospects seem even better than they did a year ago.
Beyond the performance of the Nats, the baseball stadium and Navy Yard area is booming. If you haven’t been to Nationals Park yet this season, be prepared to be shocked by the new restaurants and residential development. We’ve been collecting taxes at a faster rate than we can pay off the bonds used to build the stadium. The success of the stadium deal is clear to see.
Last week, we broke ground for the new D.C. United soccer stadium, to be completed in 2018. The new stadium will add to the economic development around the baseball stadium and the Wharf project on the waterfront to make Southwest Washington one of the most dynamic areas in the country.
EventsDC, the sports and convention authority for Washington, D.C., is finalizing plans for a sports and entertainment complex in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Ward 8. While the facility will be smaller than the Verizon Center, it will still create hundreds of construction jobs for the next two years — and hundreds more staff positions at the complex, which will host concerts, community events, Mystics games and Wizards practices. It will attract investment and visitors to the Congress Heights neighborhood.
EventsDC has also released various proposals for the current RFK Stadium site on the banks of the Anacostia River, including a plan to build a brand new football stadium. The proposal wouldn’t just allow the Washington Redskins to return to their namesake city; it would, like the Verizon Center and Nats Park, spur the construction of new retail, hotels, and businesses, creating jobs for District residents.
These sports and entertainment facilities are often criticized because people say the dollars spent on them would just be spent elsewhere in the District. However, unlike essentially any other stadium in the country, the sports facilities in the District attract spending from residents of other jurisdictions — Virginia and Maryland — that (because of tax-collection limitations in the Home Rule Charter) will not generate tax revenue for D.C. unless they buy things, like sports tickets, here in the city.
Strong sports teams in D.C. are exciting for us as a community, but, even more than that, they are important to diversify and strengthen our local economy beyond the government sector. We’ve worked tirelessly over the past 20 years to make the District attractive to businesses and residents, and we’re reaping the benefits of a broad, diverse economic base. Go, D.C.!
Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.