Ice In The Sky
New ownership brings new ideas. When Ted Leonsis and his investment group, Lincoln Holdings LLC, bought the Washington Capitals Hockey Club in the summer of 1999, they identified one, immediate need-- find a home inside the Beltway for an NHL-caliber training center.
Their hope was that by moving the training center from Piney Orchard, a planned community in Odenton, Md., to a space nearer their home ice at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C., the players would be a more-visible part of the community and provide the hometown with an economic boost.
Like all new ideas, this one faced challenges, most notably finding inexpensive and available land in northern Virginia, one of the wealthiest/most expensive counties in the country., But not impossible—especially when you look up, not just out.
Picking The Site
In November 1999, Dick Patrick, the team president, hired George Parr, Senior Director of Operations for the Washington Capitals and Project Manager of the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, to locate a new training site. According to Parr, “I was aware that there was a need for an ice skating rink inside the Beltway in northern Virginia, and I had the idea of putting the rink on top of the Ballston Common parking garage because of its size.”
He knew that the footprint of the garage was 4.5 acres, which would be large enough to accommodate two full-sized ice rinks. But he didn’t know if the fifty-year-old garage could support the new construction.
To test his idea, Parr contacted long-time friend and former business partner, Tom Newman, who was working as Director of the Real Estate Development Group for Arlington Economic Development. Newman commissioned a structural engineer study and found that the garage had originally been designed as an eight-level structure able to hold 3,000 cars, but, for whatever reason, only seven levels were finished. Even better, each level was just over four acres in size.
Now they had definitive proof. There was enough room for the new rink, and it appeared the structure could be made to work.
The Art Of The Deal--Financing Issues
Two initial decisions helped move the project forward. First, the County of Arlington decided to have the Capitals act as the project developer and second, the county agreed to finance most of the project through the sale of bonds, backed by its moral obligation, to the tune of $6 million. The Capitals, in turn, signed a long-term lease on the facility, agreed to be responsible for covering the county’s bond-debt service, and contributed $1.2 million to upfront design and construction costs.
With a handshake and signature, both parties agreed to move forward and avoided the unpleasant prospect of buying a more-expensive, close-in location.
Helen Downey is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Parks & Rec Business. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.