Ask the Owner: Ted Leonsis, November 18
Wizards, Capitals and Mystics owner Ted Leonsis joined WTOP live in studio Nov. 18
Noah Frank, wtop.com
WASHINGTON -- Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics, touched on a number of topics involving sports and the District, including a rumored practice facility in Shaw, D.C.’s Olympic bid, and the growth of Monumental Network.
Reports came out last week that the Wizards were looking at building a new practice facility and were considering the Shaw neighborhood. Leonsis said he visited the area Monday night the first time in a while, but stressed that it is not the only location option for such a facility, or even the primary one.
“Our first choice is a welcoming community and a place that is very convenient for our players and our fans to get to,” Leonsis told WTOP Tuesday. “[Shaw] is one of the areas that we’re looking at, but it’s certainly not the preferred area, or the only area and the like.”
Leonsis said that there has been plenty of interest the Shaw neighborhood is certainly not the only area that the team is considering
“You’d be not surprised how many developers and municipalities have reached out to us,” Leonsis said. “They see what Verizon Center did to downtown. They’ve seen the power of Kettler Capitals IcePlex and what it’s done in Ballston.”
The Capitals will host the Winter Classic for the first time in 2015, taking on the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park on New Year’s Day. While the event is a major showcase for his team, Leonsis stressed that the direct benefit is greater for the league and the city.
“The league pays you what you would generate playing the Blackhawks at the Verizon Center,” he explained. “The league runs this, and it now owns New Year’s Day”
He also pointed out how the influx of visiting fans can help commerce for the city.
“Hopefully we’ll bring in 10,000, 20,000 fans from Chicago who will stay in our hotels and eat at our restaurants,” Leonsis said.
Leonsis is at the forefront of leading the charge to get the Olympics to Washington D.C. in 2024. As the selection process narrows, the U.S. bid is down to four cities, also including Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“When we first went at it, we were told we didn’t have a chance,” he said, explaining that they were told D.C. is too small, it’s not a great sports town, and that the political environment wasn’t right.
But Leonsis compared the bid to London’s in 2012.
“Specifically, there was an east end part of the city that nobody was proud of,” he explained. “And it was on the other side of the river, not unanalogous to our situation here.”
Leonsis explained that the Olympic village was later turned into low income housing, something he thinks could help revitalize the Anacostia region.
“We’d like to be able to have the greatest Olympic Games in the summer here, but also have a point of view and influence on how our city develops,” he said.
While Leonsis acknowledges his operation is not profitable yet, he believes a future investment into moving Monumental Network into a broadcast operation could help solve that.
“I hope so,” he said. “At some point, those rights will revert back to us.”
“We know how to broadcast games,” he said, noting that the network is already doing Mystics games and Capitals preseason games. “We’re very proud of the work we’re doing to be ready for one day, if our rights burn off. We want to work with Comcast, but if we can’t, then we’d launch the Monumental Network. It’s pretty simple.”