As you have probably heard by now, Washington D.C. is one of four cities (along with Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco) in the running to be the U.S. Olympic Committee's nominee for the 2024 Summer Olympics. D.C.'s group is getting a bit of attention because of the high-profile names they've lined up for their board, including former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former mayor Anthony Williams, chef José Andrés and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who as you already know, is very committed to bringing important things to D.C.
But more importantly, the committee also includes Sheila Johnson, the president of the Washington Mystics and vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, as well as Ted Leonsis, who is the vice chairman of the D.C. Olympic committee and owner of the Wizards and Capitals. Needless to say, it was very interesting when the chairman of the D.C. Olympic Committee, Russ Ramsey, had this to say about how an Olympic Stadium could be used after the Olympics:
Ramsey acknowledged a new Olympic stadium will be a critical part of the Washington bid, but he said neither the location nor the ideal post-Olympics use for that stadium has been determined. He declined to speculate on alternate locations to the RFK site but said the new stadium could be repurposed for anything from a football stadium to an NBA/NHL arena to a national Olympic training center.
"We’re agnostic," Ramsey said. "We can be supporters of all those entities because there are models of building an Olympic stadium and converting it to all those things. . . . Imagine that [for Wizards and Capitals games], instead of going to Seventh Street, [fans] were sitting there on the river in a new city center. It would transform the community."
When asked about Ramsey's comments, Leonsis declined to comment through a spokesman.
We're still very early in the process here, but the thought of the Wizards and Capitals playing at the RFK location would be surreal. First of all, what other city could claim that its NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS teams have all played at the same site? But that said, we're very curious to hear how the D.C. Olympics group would go about converting an Olympic Stadium for track and field events to work as a dual-purpose NBA/NHL arena afterwards.
But regardless of whether or not D.C. gets the 2024 games, this should serve as a reminder that the Verizon Center, which has aged remarkably well, won't be around forever. When 2024 games begin, the Verizon Center would be almost 27 years old. There are currently only two NBA arenas over 27 years old, the Golden State's Oracle Arena, which the Warriors are already in the process of replacing, and Madison Square Garden, which recently underwent a 3 year, $1 billion renovation and still might possibly have to find a new arena by 2023. (Whether this is appropriate is another question entirely).
Bundling a new arena for the Wizards and Capitals in with Olympic construction would certainly make it easier to secure funding for the new arena from the city if the group were to seek public financing. Let's not forget that Abe Pollin privately financed the $220 million it took to build the MCI/Verizon Center back in 1997. The only public assistance the Wizards have ever received came in 2007, when they received $50 million to help fund renovations to luxury suites, scoreboards and other projects at the Verizon Center.
Again, this is all speculation going off of a potential scenario floated by the chairman of an Olympic bid that still has to beat out other U.S. bids, just for a shot to present its case to the International Olympic Committee. But if nothing else, it certainly gives Wizards fans a reason to keep an eye on Washington D.C.'s bid for the 2024 Olympic games.