The message was clear. The new practice facility for the Washington Wizards and new home arena for the Washington Mystics will be more than just a new place to work on a jump shot.
On Wednesday, September 16th, history was made as Monumental Sports & Entertainment, along with key DC political figures made the announcement for a groundbreaking new Entertainment and Sports Arena at St. Elizabeth's East in Ward 8.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, who played a large role in helping to make this happen in the District, made it clear that this new facility will be a "game-changer" to Ward 8 and the surrounding area.
It will be bigger than basketball. Something echoed by almost all involved with this project.
She repeatedly talked about what this new complex will mean for the city, in terms of adding economic value to the region, new jobs (both temporary and permanent), along with helping to develop Southeast DC into a booming area filled with shops, restaurants and entertainment.
Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis, who admitted the organization was in talks with locations in both Maryland and Virginia, said he worked closely with the mayor's office and the emotional tie-in with the city played a key role in eventually picking this location.
While in its current state, the area may not be a hot spot for locals to travel, but this new project will begin to transform the Congress Heights area into one of DC's premiere locations.
"We've been working for a while to find a site to build a world class practice facility for the Wizards and Mystics and we're very excited to have come together on a partnership with the city and Events DC. We're excited to build something that's going to be a great thing for the Mystics and Wizards, great thing for this community, for Anacostia, for Ward 8... we're excited to be the anchor tenant, here in St Elizabeth's campus, and we think this is going to turn into a destination in DC and help transform this part of the city," said Randy Boe, executive vice president and general counsel for Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
During his media availability, Leonsis often cited what Verizon Center did to the Chinatown neighborhood and what the Kettler Capitals Iceplex meant to the Ballston neighborhood in Arlington. Both areas have flourished since the MSE teams moved in and the idea is that once this new arena is built in Ward 8, that area too will take off.
"When Verizon Center was built, it helped transform a part of downtown that needed to be transformed. As an organization, we always talk about the double bottom line and when we saw this location, we saw it not just as an opportunity to build something that would be a fantastic asset for our teams, but an opportunity to help transform a community," said Boe.
The building itself will be one that Leonsis hopes other teams around the league use as a model when creating practice facilities for their clubs. Everything about it will be state-of-the-art, including a potential area designated for the brand new STRIVR virtual reality platform, which the MSE teams will begin using in 2015-16.
He knows that the players talk around the league and that having this brand new facility can only help when trying to recruit free agents.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 and the facility is expected to be ready for the Fall of 2018.
While the city will be getting a new 118,000 square foot, 5,00 seat arena to call its own, the players of both the Wizards and Mystics will see huge benefits once this building is complete.
For the Wizards, they will have a brand new, state-of-the-art training facility, with multiple basketball courts, weight-lifting machines, training rooms, film study rooms, and an entire area to call their own.
"We've been waiting on this for a while, it's something John and I both wanted. As a team, everyone wants a practice facility, it's great for the city, great for our team and I'm thrilled about it," said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal.
They currently have one practice court inside Verizon Center that is shared with the Mystics.
But, they see the big picture in this as well.
"It's bigger than basketball, an opportunity to give back to the community and have these people come watch us for open practices and places where they can hold camps and things like that," said all-star Wizards point guard John Wall.
Attached to the Wizards' practice facility, the Mystics will will have their own arena, one in which they could realistically fill to capacity and create an atmosphere unrivaled across the WNBA. They will also have their own locker rooms and not be forced to move when a concert is in town, something they currently have to deal with at Verizon Center.
"I'm really excited, I cant wait until its finished because its going to be a full gym to play in, one that's really loud, and its going to be great for the Mystics," exclaimed all-star Mystics' forward Emma Meesseman.
This new facility will give both teams the space they need and give these world-class athletes the training they deserve.
It was a great event to kick off this groundbreaking project, one that included appearances from not only top political figures and high ranking executives, but was also attended by players and coaches from both teams, front office execs, alumni, the Wizard Girls, G-Wiz, Pax, local students in the community, and a plethora of media to help share this big day. The event proved just how big of a deal this will be, as the mayor stated, this is a "BFD."
Wednesday was a win for the Wizards, a win for the Mystics, and most of all a big win for the city of Washington D.C.
Click Here for Photos from Wednesday's Press Conference