Monumental Sports is currently in talks with Howard University and real estate developers to build a new Wizards basketball practice facility on the University's campus, per the Washington Post's Jonathan O'Connell.
The construction of the new facility is expected to cost $25 to $35 million. This money is expected to come from government bonds. The facility would be located at Georgia Avenue and Eighth Street NW north of W Street. In addition, Monumental will operate the facility, not unlike how they operate the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington. The practice facility and the surrounding area would be part of a mixed-use development which may include new housing and wellness centers.
Unlike last November's practice facility talks which would have been built in a park in Shaw, this would be built on a university which is also looking for new revenue streams. Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick acknowledged that real estate planning is one way to increase that. From O'Connell's article, Frederick said:
We’ve been talking to lots of people about different types of things. One of my goals at the university is to diversify our revenue streams and looking at real estate assets is a part of that.
The Wizards have subpar practice facilities compared with the rest of the NBA, where a number of other teams like the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves have built new facilities for their teams. Last November he wrote on his blog that their current practice court was "was marginal at best when it was constructed 17 years ago." There is only one full-size court at the Verizon Center's practice court while most standalone NBA team practice facilities have multiple courts and state of the art training rooms.
There wasn't anything much mentioned about the Washington Mystics WNBA team. When the practice facility talks first erupted, there were premature reports about them possibly moving out of Verizon Center to a smaller venue. However, it's safe to assume that this will be their practice facility as well when everything's completed. After all, the Minnesota Lynx practice in the same facility as the Timberwolves. There was no mention of how this could fit in with a possible D-League team, so I'll just leave it at that until we hear more.
If Monumental Sports partners with Howard University, this will not be an unprecedented partnership with a higher education institution and/or the use of its facilities. The company currently operates George Mason University's Patriot Center, and the Georgetown University men's basketball team plays its home games at the Verizon Center.
It is important to note that all of these talks are still in early stages and Monumental Sports is considering other sites in Northern Virginia and Maryland. But it's good to see that we may be seeing more progress on an important investment for the Wizards' future.
In case you missed it back in November, Nick Bilka had a chance to speak with Leonsis on the practice facility. In Part 1 of the Q&A, Leonsis gave his detailed reasons why he wanted it built. Then in Part 2, Leonsis talked about public funding and how the facility can be an asset to the local community.
How do you all feel about a possible partnership between Monumental Sports and Howard University? It's early, but I think this could be better received than the possibility of the facility being built in Shaw.