It's happening. The Washington Wizards are moving to Northern Virginia.
Monumental Sports owner Ted Leonsis and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin have finally announced the move, which has been feared by the Wizards fanbase for a long time. According to Josh Robbins of The Athletic, the Wizards and the Capitals will be moving to a new arena in Alexandria, VA, starting in 2028. The sports complex will be a part of a new entertainment district planned to be built in Alexandria. This is still pending legislative approval, but it looks like there is no turning back from it.
The arguments for the move are clear. The Wizards' attendance has struggled in recent years and the Capital One Arena isn't generating sufficient revenue. A lot of the Capitals' fanbase is based in Northern Virginia, so moving the arena closer to them makes some sense. Plus, there are obvious financial motivations for Leonsis, the state of Virginia, and real-estate developers who will benefit from the creation of a new district and the revival of a new neighborhood.
Plus, the Wizards could use a fresh start. Having just entered a new era, the rebuilding process will take a long time. Moving to a new stadium with new branding just when the team will presumably be ready to contend, could be a boost to a franchise who has been struggling with relevance.
However, sports teams belong in their cities. They contribute to the soul and culture of a city. Capital One Arena, with its location in downtown Washington, DC, has been an integral part of the community for the last 25 seasons. It's convenient, easy to get to, and is in a buzzing neighborhood. Moreover, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops that benefit from the neighborhood being the home of the Wizards and Capitals. For the majority of the Wizards fans, the new location will be significantly more difficult to get to.
Plus, it's not like the Capital One Arena was in bad shape. It's not an old stadium. Plenty of teams, some that are in even bigger markets, including the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Chicago Bulls play in older arenas than the Capital One Arena.
Losing a part of the soul of the city to a financially-motivated real-estate development hurts. Updating the current stadium, reviving the existing neighborhood, and improving the general atmosphere to create excitement around the franchise would have been a better initiative. Yet, in the NBA, money takes precedence over the feelings of a fanbase, and this is the latest iteration of that disappointing fact.