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A proposed sports arena in northern Virginia will be a big topic of debate for the upcoming session

A render of part of the proposed sports complex in Alexandria.
Alexandria Economic Development Partnership
A render of part of the proposed sports complex in Alexandria.

One of the issues lawmakers will be debating when they gavel into session next week is the creation of a new authority that would own a northern Virginia sports arena.

If members of the General Assembly create a new authority that would own a proposed sports arena in Alexandria, the land in Potomac Yard where the arena would be built would be taken off the tax rolls. That’s a huge tax break for sports franchises that stand to make a lot of money on the deal says Washington-based economist Austin Drukker.

"Taxpayer money going towards these sort of things is not usually good for the taxpayers," Drukker says. "In a way, it's subsidizing a billionaire owner of a private enterprise, right? We think of sports as being a public good and a public enterprise. But at the end [of the day], they’re a private enterprise."

City officials say they will include performance measures. But Greg LeRoy at Good Jobs First says those performance measures should include some kind of accountability if the economic development projections about job creation fail to materialize.

"We could build in accountability because we could say if you said 30,000 and you created 20,000, we're going to give you a one-third haircut because you fell one-third short on the job creation," LeRoy says. "That would be entirely feasible and doable and it wouldn’t impede the deal."

Economic development officials estimate 30,000 jobs will be created, although they have not yet released a breakdown of how many of those jobs will be service sector jobs versus corporate positions.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Corrected: January 5, 2024 at 10:34 AM EST
Greg LeRoy's name was misspelled in the original version of this story.
Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.