UPDATE: Councilmember Silverman Introduces Legislation to Limit Tax Dollars Spent on Wizards Practice Facility and Resolution to Extend Contract Approval
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced a bill today that sets a $50 million cap on District taxpayer dollars to be spent on the proposed Wizards practice facility at St. Elizabeths in Ward 8. The bill, the Wizards Practice Facility Cost Containment Act of 2016, was co-introduced with five D.C. Council colleagues: Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), David Grosso (At-Large), and Anita Bonds (At-Large).
If construction and completion of the facility exceeds $50 million, the legislation allows only Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the owner of the Wizards, or another private entity to pay the additional costs.
Also this afternoon, Silverman, along with Cheh, Grosso, and Nadeau, filed a contract approval resolution, which will delay the deadline to approve the contract on the Wizards facility until April 7. This will give time for the Council’s Committee of the Whole to hold a hearing on the bill.
"District tax dollars don't grow on trees. If we have to pay cost overruns in the millions of dollars, that is less money for school modernization, new ambulances and fire trucks, new recreation centers, and other needed infrastructure—especially in Ward 8," Silverman said.
Currently, the contract between District government, Monumental Sports, and Events DC—the city's sports and convention center authority—contains no protection for District taxpayers on cost overruns. District taxpayers will be paying not only $50 million for an NBA practice facility, but also all cost overruns. These cost overruns include all the bells and whistles an NBA practice facility might include, such as hydrotherapy pools, cryosaunas, and gourmet kitchens.
"We have an obligation to District residents and businesses to use their funds as responsibly and efficiently as possible," Silverman said. "This will hold both ourselves and our construction partners accountable, and it will make the costs of the project transparent."
The District's contribution to the proposed Wizards practice facility has received little public discussion. Other than one Committee of the Whole roundtable, the allocation of $50 million for the Wizards practice facility has avoided the normal legislative process of going through hearings, a committee report, a fiscal impact statement, and multiple council votes. In comparison, the allocation of public dollars for the D.C. United stadium had five separate hearings and roundtables, three committee markups, and two votes by the full Council.
The legislation was referred sequentially to the Committee on Finance and Revenue and, if not reported out within 90 days, to the Committee of the Whole.