'Topping out' of new entertainment and sports arena in Southeast D.C.

'Topping out' of new entertainment and sports arena in Southeast D.C. (Mike Carter-Conneen/ABC7)

The construction of a new basketball arena on the Saint Elizabeth's campus in Southeast Washington reached a milestone today.

District leaders celebrated the structure's "topping off," meaning it's now reached its final construction height.

"We're betting big time on Ward 8 and everybody else will follow. Congratulations, everybody," said Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Bowser and construction workers signed a support beam for the future home of the Washington Mystics, a practice facility for the Washington Wizards and a G-league team called "The Go-Go."

The arena will only hold 4,200 seats.

Instead of using a mostly empty Capitol One Arena, the Mystics' coach believes this smaller venue, dedicated to his team, will improve performance.

"Now if we sell out every night, it's going to be intimidating. There's an atmosphere or aura your team feels every night when they walk in," said Washington Mystics Head Coach Mike Thibault.

EventsDC will operate the arena.

"We're going to have concerts, boxing, all sorts of community events as well. So we see a great diversity in programming for this arena," said Greg O'Dell, EventsDC president and CEO.

Some have raised questions about whether the $65 million project—mostly taxpayer money—is a good investment, others have expressed concern that the development will only result in gentrification, but supporters say the arena will be transformational.

"We've had a great involvement with the community to make sure they're also involved with it. And so we're just happy to see the first phase start," said Brian Kenner, deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

"We'd like to see healthcare improved here. It's a food desert," said Ted Leonsis, founder and owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, "We'd like to see restaurants and food trucks and grocery stores opening up around here."

The construction team says its work is on schedule and the facility is set to open in the fall.

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