Depending on how long Alex Ovechkin wants to continue playing, he might find himself adding to and surpassing Wayne Gretzky’s goal totals in a new locale.
No, the Washington Capitals aren’t trading their franchise superstar in the twilight of his career, instead of planning to move from the nation’s capital to Virginia.
An event is planned for Wednesday where Capitals owner Ted Leonsis will announce a move of the franchise to the Potomac Yards area in Virginia. Leonsis, who also owns the Washington Wizards, will be joined by Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin.
The Wizards would move into the new building as well. Leonsis’ third team, the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, would remain in Washington D.C.
The Washington Capitals might be getting a new building to play in soon
The Washington D.C. metropolitan area includes the stateless city as well as parts of the adjacent states of Virginia and Maryland.
The Washinton Capitals want a new arena. Even if they move to a new state, they will still be in the Washington D.C. metro area.
We’ve already seen the jokes on Twitter that the move would make them the “Virginia Capitals” and not the “Washington Capitals”, but sports teams from D.C. not playing in the actual D.C. city is nothing new.
Commissioner Gary Bettman even called the move only about “four miles” and not a relocation in a recent appearance on ESPN.
When the Capitals first entered the league, they played in Landover, Maryland at the Capital Centre until the opening of Capital One Arena (previously the MCI Center) in 1997.
The Capital Centre hosted one NHL All-Star Game back in 1982. Even if the game was in the suburbs of Maryland, the attending players were invited to a White House luncheon.
It was there former president Ronald Reagan gave a speech where he jokingly said the Capitals would trade the state of Texas to Edmonton for Wayne Gretzky.
The Washington Commanders of the NFL currently play in Landover at FedEx field, after previously calling two stadiums in D.C. home before moving to Maryland in 1997. When you think of it, Maryland pretty much traded the Capitals for the Washington NFL team that year.
The Commanders are also looking for a new stadium. Sports venues from 1997 are quickly going out of style in the Beltway area. They haven’t ruled out staying in Maryland or going back to D.C., but joining the Capitals and Wizards in Virginia seems like their top choice so far.
State lawmakers in Virginia have already approved the plan for a “sports district” that would not only include a new stadium, but a smaller music venue as well as corporate offices for the Capitals and Wizards parent company Monumental Sports and Entertainment.
Local lawmakers and the Virginia General Assembly still need to vote on the project. Meanwhile, Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser announced $500 million in funding to “modernize” the Capital One arena. That is being seen as a competing bid to keep the Capitals and Wizards from leaving the city.
As much as Twitter likes to joke, this isn’t a full-scale relocation of the franchise. The Capitals will still be a team in the D.C. area and keep their D.C. branding. Politicians on both sides have a different dog in the fight, because wherever the Capitals and Wizards move to they take their valuable tax dollars with them.
An interesting note is that Leonsis owns the Capital One arena. Just like the mayor of D.C. proposed, he wants to modernize the venue into a “unique flexible” venue but states there’s no way to do so around an NBA and NHL schedule.
Leonsis wants to continue owning Capital One Arena, using it as a specialty venue for the Mystics and traveling acts and shows.
It seems like Leonsis wants to spread out his sports properties to give his teams more room. Plans for the new sports district include practice facilities for the Wizards, but sparingly not for the Capitals.
The project could break ground in 2025 and open in 2028 if all goes according to plan. The project’s reported price tag is $2 billion.
For reference, the NHL’s last fully new (Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena reused part of an existing structure and also not including the Arizona Coyotes' temporary home of Mullet Arena) was UBS Arena built for $1.5 billion.