Arena boosted downtown D.C.

it’s worth noting an account from the Washington City Paper about the impact a similar project has had on Washington, D.C.’s downtown.

D.C.’s basketball team still sucks, but with a large assist from the arena, the neighborhood around the Washington Wizards’ Verizon Center has had a big rebound.

When I grew up in D.C., the then-Bullets played in far-off Landover, Maryland, a blah, suburban exit on the Beltway. Most of my memories of the place are as a gigantic parking lot.

Meanwhile, D.C.’s downtown core was home to boarded-up buildings, struggling businesses (think pawn shops, wig stores) and a faded Chinatown—most of the Chinese had left for the suburbs. The main residents were homeless people who hung out on a seedy pedestrian mall in front of the main library.

Sound familiar?

Since, the Wizards/Capitals former owner led a push to build a new facility in downtown D.C. Up and running since 1997, Verizon Center has helped spark a turnaround there. It’s now a trendy, go-to destination with a lot of things to do, good nightspots and places to live near public transit.

The new arena has its pluses and minuses for sure. The City Paper’s Dave McKenna points out that it has cost the cash-poor city a bundle, roughly $100 million in public subsidies.

“The debate over a sports arena’s value to a city usually focuses on the insanely wealthy businessmen who are given unthinkable amounts of the public monies,” he writes. “But … it’s clear that not all the winners in the arena raising realm are billionaires. There are some Regular Guy beneficiaries, too.”

And, even with the arena, the Penn Quarter/Gallery Place/Chinatown area (City Paper dubs it “Land of the Loft”) still has its problems—uneven schools, gang violence. But I agree with McKenna that it’s a worthy start, especially considering what was like before, and gets people to move back in and invest in the neighborhood.

Of course, what will happen in Sacramento is anybody’s guess. And how to pay for the damn thing? But like D.C., with or without lofts, it’d be nice to see a comeback for downtown Sac.

Compiled from Purple Drank.