The Washington Post

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray would ‘love’ to have Wizards practice facility in Washington

That would be nice, Mr. Mayor. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis recently announced his intentions to build a practice facility separate from Verizon Center for his professional basketball team, and D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) wants the complex to be located in Washington.

Gray told Mike DeBonis, The Post’s local politics and government reporter, this week he has already spoken with Leonsis about possibly building it within city limits.

“Yeah, I have,” Gray said. “We want to work with him to see if there’s something we can possibly have done. There are other cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, L.A., who all have done practice facilities. I’ve looked at some of the data around what they have done. They range anywhere from like $15 [million] to $25 million in cost. The question is, what is the relationship of the city to the teams that are involved? But I’d love to see them have that … facility in the city.”

Leonsis stated that he would like to have a multi-court center with office space, weight and fitness room, training and medical facilities and theater-style classrooms. He also wants the facility to be accessible to public transportation and “close by” Verizon Center.

Gray and Leonsis have had discussions about a possible building site, but Gray declined to mention the locations.

“There are a few on the table but I don’t want to put anything out there. You know how that goes,” Gray said. “The ice place is out there in [Ballston]. I went out there to see it, just to see what they are doing. I guess he and I would have to figure out what ‘near’ [Verizon Center] means.”

Gray is willing to work with Leonsis but wants a place that serves more than just the Wizards.

“The thing that would be important to me … is to have it be a facility that isn’t just for the team, but really would have some important community purposes associated with it, too,” Gray said. “It certainly would make it a lot easier for the city to participate in something like that.”

Leonsis is open to building a facility in Virginia, where the NHL’s Washington Capitals already train at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, or in Maryland. But he added in a recent conversation that he would prefer to have the facility in Washington.

“We’re here in D.C. now and obviously D.C. gets the leg up,” he said, “but you’d have to be able to get the land and then the permits, the permission to be able to develop this kind of facility in whatever part of town you get to do it.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.



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Michael Lee · December 17, 2013