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  • Not Even DC’s Poorest Neighborhood Wants A WNBA Arena

    Last week, and to much fanfare, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new stadium deal in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

    It appears now, though, that many people in that neighborhood feel like they are getting the raw end of the deal. (RELATED: Poor Neighborhoods In DC Missing Out On The New Businesses)

    The Washington Post spoke with dozens of people from the neighborhood, and most of them said they would rather see the space used to make room for a child care center or homeless shelter — things that would actually help the community.

    “A lot of kids around here, they get in the wrong place at the wrong time and get a bullet in them. These kids need a safe environment,” Danette Robinson, a neighborhood resident, told the Post.

    The arena deal, struck between the city and Ted Leonsis, the billionaire owner of the Washington Wizards and Mystics franchises, will see the city put up about $50 million — or roughly 90 percent — of the $55 million needed to build the arena. (RELATED: More Than A Quarter Of Blacks In DC Live Below Poverty Line)

    The city will directly contribute $23 million and Events DC, a quasi-governmental agency funded by tax payers, will contribute an additional $27 million and be charged with handling the arena’s construction.

    Leonsis, for his part, will chip in just $5 million up front to lease the space from the city, and he agreed to make a $10 million investment in neighborhood infrastructure through charities and non-profit groups.

    Last week, when the arena deal was announced, Pierre Lawson, who lives near the location, told WUSA 9 the neighborhood is the “neglected stepchild of D.C.” and said he is skeptical of the new development.

    “You can build that over there but I see my young black males who are standing up and down MLK. Are we going to walk around the street and say hey, I have a job for you over here at this place,” he told the TV station.

    At a news conference, Bowser said the new arena will revitalize the neglected area and bring new jobs and top-notch entertainment options to the residents. She predicts the new arena will bring $4 million in new tax dollars each year, for a total of $90 million for the length of the deal.

    In order for Bowser to hit the $90 million number for new tax dollars, the facility would need to host at least 90 other events each year.

    David Berri, a Professor of Economics at Southern Utah University, told ThinkProgress the only person who is really going to benefit from this deal is Leonsis.

    “The idea that this helps the Mystics or the WNBA in any real way is ridiculous,” Berri said. “It sounds to me like they want a practice facility for the NBA team, they want the public to fund it, and they’re adding the Mystics as PR.”

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