Start-up looks to build D.C. area’s largest athletic complex


Rendering courtesy of St. James Group.

A start-up sports and entertainment company has proposed building what its founders say would be the Washington’s area’s largest athletics complex on what is now Hensley Park in southern Alexandria.

The St. James Sports & Entertainment Complex, as outlined in a proposal submitted to Alexandria officials, would be 600,000 square feet, equivalent to the size of three Wal-Mart supercenters. It would be built on the Hensley Park playing fields between the Beltway and Eisenhower Avenue.

The complex would cater to a variety of popular sports, including, for instance, six indoor tennis courts, four batting cages, two NHL-size hockey rinks and an 80,000-square-foot multipurpose field house.

The proposal came from two sports enthusiasts who grew up locally and later attended the College of William & Mary together before going onto successful business careers.

Kendrick F. Ashton Jr. grew up in the District and was an all-conference cornerback on the William & Mary football team before joining Goldman Sachs and then co-founding Perella Weinberg Partners, a financial services firm in New York focused on tech firm transactions.

His partner, Craig A. A. Dixon, is a Gaithersburg native and former attorney at McGuire Woods who rose to senior counsel at Smithfield Foods, which bills itself as the world’s largest pork processor.

Both Ashton and Dixon said they had notified their employers that they would be leaving their high-profile jobs shortly so they could follow their dream of building a sports complex near their hometowns that would provide an outlet for sports enthusiasts and a recreation center for families.

“We grew up in­cred­ibly passionate about participating in sports and getting better and pursuing certain passions,” Ashton said. “I had sort of reached the point in my career, and Craig in his corporate legal career, where we had achieved enough, built a large enough network and reached a certain level of skill to accomplish something at this level.”

In proposing a place for year-round competition and training, Craig said he and Ashton had imagined a place that they would have loved as kids. “This is the kind of facility we would have liked to have had as young children growing up,” he said.

The partners pitch the project as an economic development engine for the Eisenhower Avenue area, near where the National Science Foundation is planning to relocate in 2017.

They said they considered other locations in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County and the District, but that the 15-acre Hensley Park site offered an ideal combination of location, acreage and transportation access.

The city has not taken a position on the idea. The Alexandria City Council reviewed it initially June 25 and Mayor William D. Euille issued a brief statement last week calling it “an interesting and unprecedented offer” and that he was interested in learning more. Although Ashton and Dixon proposed a 40-year ground lease for the site from the city, they have not disclosed what the project would cost them or taxpayers.

“We are committed to transparency, and we want to hear and engage our community before anything else can happen,” Euille said.

Jeffrey C. Farner, deputy director for planning and zoning, said the city is determining whether to issue a competitive search for partners for Hensley Park. “We are in the process of looking at impacts but also potential public benefits,” he said.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business