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Wizards Practice Facility in Ward 8 Gets a Builder
By Andrew Giambrone, Washington City Paper
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two construction companies have been selected to build the Wizards practice facility, sports authority Events DC has announced.
The 4,200-seat arena, which will also serve as the home court for the Washington Mystics and host concerts and community events, was recently downsized due to design reconfigurations, from an initial 5,000 seats. It’s projected costs, meanwhile, have grown to $65 million, up $10 million from the original estimate. Events DC says firms Smoot and Gilbane, operating as joint venture Smoot/Gilbane, will start construction beginning next year.
This isn’t the first time the companies have worked together. They’ve collaborated on the University of Maryland’s 17,950-seat Comcast Arena and, more locally, on the modernized Dunbar and Roosevelt schools. Cost overruns like those seen at both public high schools, according to a 2015 audit by the Office of the D.C. Auditor, have been a central concern of the Wizards project’s critics, such as Councilmember Elissa Silverman.
District administrators anticipate that the facility will be completed in the fall of 2018, with the likes of Mayor Muriel Bowser and Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May touting the several hundred jobs and millions in eventual tax dollars that the project will generate. Still, D.C. taxpayers are fronting more than 90 percent of the development’s costs. As part of the District’s deal with Wizards-owning Monumental Sports, they’re also on the hook for overruns.
Events DC President Gregory O’Dell says in a statement that it “remains dedicated to its pledge” that 50 percent of the site’s major contracts will be brokered through the Certified Business Enterprise program, which favors homegrown companies. Small business enterprises will receive thirty-five percent of the project work, the group says.
Specifically, Smoot/Gilbane has chosen Ward 8-based companies Hardlight Construction and Saxon Collaborative “to participate in the management team and trade work” on the development. The joint venture is planning workshops and job fares for local residents in the coming months, Events DC notes.
Design concepts for the arena are expected to be unveiled to the public in September.