Home The ACC is holding a tournament in an arena that Youngkin wants us to pay to replace

The ACC is holding a tournament in an arena that Youngkin wants us to pay to replace

Chris Graham
acc tournament
Photo: ACC

Here on Day 3 of the ACC Tournament’s return to the Capital One Arena, it’s become clear to me why Ted Leonsis wants a new home for his Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals.

It’s not so much that the arena is a dump on the order of, say, the Greensboro Coliseum, the ancestral home of the ACC Tournament, as it is, just misplaced.

I’ve read accounts from the time that the arena was being planned in the mid-1990s, and it seems that the expectation was that the investment into the arena would revitalize the Chinatown and downtown areas.

This is my second week-long trip to the area – the ACC Tournament was also here back in 2016.

The idea that anything got revitalized by the arena being here is bunk.

There are as many empty restaurant and retail spaces as there are ones that are open for business, and too many of the ones that are open for business look like they need a power wash and a fresh coat of paint.

And in terms of safety, one local that we talked to this week explained the massive police presence as a response to a general feeling of it being unsafe to be here.

I note that because, before that tidbit got passed along, I was going to say, I don’t know that it feels unsafe here, but at the same time, I don’t know, I don’t feel like it’s just the kind of place that you want to be.

It’s a little thing, but last night, walking back from the final game of the second round, there was a dead rat in the middle of the sidewalk.

That kind of thing.

Back to the arena, then, it’s a multipurpose venue, one of the purposes being hockey, meaning there’s ice under the basketball floor – that meaning, it’s freezing cold in here.

Today’s forecast high in DC is 81 degrees; I’m here on the overflow press row (I’m not one of the cool kids on the floor) wearing two shirts, and I could use at least one more.

The concourse selections, which I’ve had to become intimately familiar with, because the ACC must be running out of money – they gave us vouchers for the concession stands in lieu of meals in the media room, which sounds like a better deal than it is.

As cool as it is to count writing about basketball as work, it is work; standing in line for 20 minutes for junk food is 20 minutes away from doing whatever I could be doing to be productive.

Anyway, so, the concessions – 90 percent of them are alcohol-only, or alcohol-primary.

Which, fine, but, food?

I guess people who come here for Wizards games aren’t here for Wizards games; they’re here to spend $20 on a can of beer or $30 on a shot of Jack Daniels.

And then, the staff, I’m guessing they must be dramatically underpaid, because it doesn’t seem like anybody who works here wants to be here, from their demeanor.

I’ll leave it, not a lot of nice, helpful folks on the employ, but again, I get it – if you’re working a sh-t job for sh-t wages, a lot of people do the bare minimum.

That’s what the Capital One Arena feels like – the bare minimum.

The area around it is rundown, the arena is lacking in character, it’s freezing goddamn cold, it’s hard to get anything to eat inside, or when you leave.

And did I mention how expensive it is to be here for a week?

I still find it funny that a billionaire a few times over like Ted Leonsis can’t figure his own way into financing a new arena, that he’s been making it like either the local government here in DC, or the state governments in neighboring Virginia or Maryland, need to front him a couple of billion dollars to take care of his problems for him.

My new favorite state senator is Louise Lucas, the Democrat from Hampton Roads, who used her position as the chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee to kill the dumb deal that our near-billionaire governor, Glenn Youngkin, tried to foist upon us, that would have given Leonsis a $2 billion arena with us footing $1.6 billion of the bill.

If the billionaires want a new gilded playhouse, let them build it.

I say that while also making the point here that, yeah, one is needed.

If I’m Leonsis, I’d be on this ASAP.

I’d also be trying to figure out how a good basketball team in here.

And in the meantime, Teddy Boy, why not pay the people who work in your arena a little better?

That could go at least a little bit of the way toward making a night here somewhat bearable.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].