Changing Landscapes: Capitals and Wizards to move from Washington to VA

On Dec. 13, Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin announced that the district’s hockey and basketball teams will move to a new stadium in Alexandria, VA, by 2028.

Washington, D.C.’s crime rate and financial gain are credited as Leonsis’ main reasons for the move. However, his decision was met with controversy, because some fans were left unhappy that the move would take Washington’s hockey and basketball teams out of the city.

Sophomore Erin Fuchs said that the move could be beneficial for the city.

“D.C. has a high crime rate,” she said. “Moving could lower dangerous situations.”

This claim is supported by the district police department’s annual crime data, which reports that total crime at the end of 2023 increased by 26% compared to the previous year. However, according to a USA Today article by Mike D. Sykes II, Leonsis is using the city’s increased crime rate as an excuse to leave.

“Don’t get it twisted, crime would just be a convenient excuse,” he wrote. “Cash is the reason Leonsis is leaving the city.”

In a Washingtonian article, writer Luke Mullins agreed with this sentiment.

“You can see the real Ted Leonsis: a typical team owner, mostly concerned with maximizing the financial windfall he can squeeze out of taxpayers,” Mullins wrote.

Junior Rohan Desai said he has mixed feelings about the move.

“As someone that lives in the state of Virginia, I think it’s cool to have these two teams situated in the state, but I also see that it could bring some problems,” he said. “It would bring a lot of traffic to the Northern Virginia area on game day.”

Senior Joey Dierbeck agreed, but said that moving stadiums may be the change that both the Capitals and the Wizards need. Currently, the Capitals are in the middle of the pack for NHL standings, and are unlikely to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Wizards are worse off, as they are in the bottom five teams in the NBA standings. Dierbeck said that a change in location could lead to a change in both teams’ performances in future years.

“I think it could end up being that fresh start, like when Nationals Park opened up in 2008,” he said. “That was a new start for the Nationals. They got the number one draft pick for back-to-back years because they were so bad, but it felt like that fresh start.”

The Washington Nationals won the MLB World Series in 2019, over a decade after moving to Nationals Park, but through that period in their new stadium, they significantly improved to become a regular contender in the MLB playoffs.

Desai said that although the teams’ future performances are uncertain, physically moving them to Alexandria could have other effects, especially negative ones.

“Ted Leonsis owns both of those teams and I think it’s going to cause a lot of the fan base in the D.C. area to sour on him for essentially selling out and moving the team from a prominent location in downtown D.C. all the way to northern Virginia, which is far less successful,” he said. “This is a complaint that a lot of people have with the Commanders as well, them being in Maryland, which is a decent bit away from downtown D.C.”

The Washington Commanders, the city’s professional football team, moved to what is now FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, in 1997. The team moved from RFK Stadium, located in the city, where the Commanders played for over 30 years, including their three Super Bowl-winning seasons. In recent years, the Commanders have consistently been ranked in the bottom ten of the NFL in average attendance. Desai said that moving the Capitals and Wizards out of their city could cause a similar decrease in fan attendance.

“It’s going to be harder for a lot of fans to get to the games if they’re not in D.C.,” he said. “The proposed location was Alexandria, and that’s a lot less accessible than downtown D.C. I think it’s going to affect attendance for games and it’s going to affect the fan bases’ perceptions of the teams.”

“I think it’s going to cause a lot of the fanbase to sour on
[owner Ted Leonsis] for essentially selling out and moving the team from a prominent location in downtown DC all the way to northern Virginia.”

– Junior Rohan Desai