District officials will cut the ribbon on the new Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA) on the St. Elizabeths East Campus on Saturday, Sept. 22. The arena will host Washington Mystics home games, Washington Wizards practices, and assorted concerts and community events.
Events DC, the District’s entertainment and sports authority, announced the grand opening of the 4,200-seat venue on Wednesday in a release. Among its other planned uses, the ESA will host e-sports contests and games for the Capital City Go-Go, D.C.’s new NBA G-League team. The arena has been years in the making and is expected to spur economic growth in Ward 8, the municipal district that covers much of Southeast and has long been neglected.
The project is also part of a larger redevelopment slated for the 180-acre St. Elizabeths East Campus, which will include thousands of units of new housing, office and retail space, and multiple phases. Recently estimated to cost $69 million, the ESA was largely bankrolled by D.C. taxpayers under the terms of a deal involving semi-independent Events DC, the District government, and Monumental Sports & Entertainment, owned by sports mogul Ted Leonsis.
Using a slogan that officials coined when the project was made public in 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser calls it “bigger than basketball” in a statement. “The ESA is about jobs, opportunity, and community; it’s about ensuring that every neighborhood, in every corner of our city has world-class housing and amenities,” she says. Max Brown, the chair of the Events DC board, echoes those comments, saying the project will provide “a much-needed economic boost.”
Officials say the 120,000-square-foot arena is set to generate $90 million in tax revenue in the next 20 years and draw more than 380,000 visitors a year to the surrounding Congress Heights neighborhood. The facility was developed by a joint venture of Smoot and Gilbane. Over $10 million in contracts were awarded to businesses in Wards 7 and 8, Events DC says, and ultimately the project will have produced hundreds of construction and long-term jobs.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the arena will host a couple of major concerts concerts in October. On Oct. 6, Mary J. Blige will perform with Jacob Banks, and on Oct. 13, Cage the Elephant will perform with Judah & The Lion. Tickets for both concerts go on sale on Friday, Sept. 14 at 10 a.m, and doors open at 7 p.m. (You can see the other scheduled events here.)