Alexandria arena study predicts 22% job growth; economist calls it ‘a fantasy document’

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An economic analysis report released Friday morning by the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership projects relocating the Washington Capitals and Wizards to Alexandria would create 22,340 jobs in Alexandria alone and thousands more across Virginia — if it comes to pass.

It would be equal to Alexandria’s job creation since April 2000, according to Federal Reserve data, and represents a 22% job growth attributed solely to the sports and entertainment complex.

But a sports economist who reviewed the report called it “a fantasy document.”

After months of refusing to release the report, economic planners in Alexandria rolled it out on a background call with reporters Friday. It was posted online at the same time. In order to hear the authors and economic planners discuss the report, reporters, including those at News4, had to agree not to reveal the identity of speakers or answers they gave. 

The release comes as the arena plan continues to face tough opposition in Richmond. Thursday night, the Washington Post reported Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said she would strip the arena language from the budget bill in the Senate. That came days after she said she wouldn’t take up the bill in the Senate Finance Committee, which she chairs. There are just three weeks to go in the legislative session. 

The 29-page report released Friday reveals and confirms a few things. To create the $12 billion economic impact (over the next 40 years), supporters are relying on the complex hosting 429 annual events:

  • 221 events at the arena
  • 115 more at the concert hall
  • 93 conferences at the complex

The study predicts 10,475 of the jobs created would be office jobs not related to the arena. That’s more than one of every 10 jobs currently in Alexandria. The traffic impacts people have been concerned about are not just related to game days.

Asked about the job creation projections, Stephanie Landrum, the president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, told the News4 I-Team, “Alexandria is somewhat of an exporter of jobs. Many of its residents work in other jurisdictions. The job creation projections are along a 15+ year ramp-up as the entire district is developed and then occupied.”

There are also several sections redacted or blacked out in Friday’s report, including how much money existing businesses bring into the area now and how much money HR&A economists predict people will spend at events.

JC Bradbury, a sports economist at Kennesaw State University who has studied many reports like this and is generally skeptical of sports-based economic predictions, reviewed the report and called it “a fantasy document designed to give the appearance of an economic rigor when it is just gobbledygook of meaningless nonsense that serves as a pretense for claiming a large economic impact.”

“We agree that building a single stadium in a sea of parking is a bad idea,” Landrum responded. “Alexandria rejected that exact idea in the same location once before. But what we are evaluating today is two professional sports teams playing in an arena that is a small part of a much larger, privately owned, taxable district. The benefits of a fully built-out Potomac Yard are very real — monetarily but also in the creation of a new, vibrant, walkable, dense, transit-oriented neighborhood and entertainment district.”

The I Team worked for months to get documents like this. Monday on News4, the I-Team will show what it faced trying to get other detailed information on this deal from elected leaders that they want taxpayers to fund.

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