A proposed arena near the Shady Grove Metro Station in Rockville is under review by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority but would require a master plan amendment before it could be built, officials said.
Developers are eyeing about 8 acres of Metro land currently used for parking as a proposed site for an arena that could host, among other events, high school graduations.
Metro received a proposal for the arena from Montgomery County last week and is reviewing it, WMATA spokeswoman Cathy Asato said.
Steve Silverman, county director of Economic Development said the initial proposal was sent as a starting-off point for discussing a possible arena and to give Metro an idea of what looking to do and start discussions of what is involved.
But building an arena on Metro land would require amending the master plan, said Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, district representative for the area, at a recent council meeting.
Amending the master plan — which serves as a guide for future development — can be done through what the Montgomery Planning Department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission calls the minor master plan amendment process.
The minor amendment process allows the Planning Board and county council to revisit certain aspects of a master plan and address current community priorities, changing circumstances or issues that were not considered in an existing master plan, according to information from planning department spokeswoman Valerie Berton.
Typically, master plans are rewritten every 15 to 20 years. The Shady Grove Sector Plan was approved in 2006. Currently, no master plan amendment has been requested for Shady Grove.
Tom Doyle and William Askinazi of Rockville-based D&A Sports and Entertainment LLC hope to construct the arena. D&A won the exclusive rights to partner with the county in the venture through a competitive bid about six years ago, which has been extended, Doyle said.
Building the arena, proposed more than six years ago, depends largely on finding a location in Montgomery County. The land at Shady Grove is ideal because of its proximity to Metro and the Intercounty Connector, he said.
The arena is estimated to cost between $45 million and $65 million, depending on the number of fixed seats and whether it would be equipped for an ice rink, said Doyle, owner of the Washington Greenhawks, a professional basketball organization. It would be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified structure — an internationally recognized standard for green design, construction, operation and maintenance — and would be built using private funds.
If developers would need to replace the approximately 900 surface-lot spaces currently on the parcel with a parking garage, it could push the total development cost as high as $120 million, he said.
The arena would bring 700 jobs once it is operational, Doyle said, and help boost the economy by bringing more people to the area.
“I think it is high time we pay attention to a deal that can bring things like significant jobs and economic development to this county,” he said.
In a briefing to the county council on June 12, Silverman said Leggett has been interested for years in finding a location for an events center.
“The idea is that there would be a place to hold graduations so people don’t have to cruise down to [Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall] all the time and to also have large-scale events and to potentially house sports teams which are now playing at a variety of different places,” he said.
Traveling frequently in the spring to DAR in Washington, D.C., to attend Montgomery County high school graduations, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said the county needs a space where it can host similar large events.
However, Metro cannot lease land directly to a private entity, Silverman said. Rather, it must go through the county, which could then provide the land to a private developer.
Even if the county were a pass-through for the land, Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park said he was told by the developers that there would be no cost to the county.
“There is not any public money involved,” he said. “This is not a public arena, this is not an investment in an arena, there is no public dollars going into it, that is not what this is.”
“No commitments are made and the county executive has been very clear, I think, publically and privately, that he is not, not interested in putting public money into an events arena,” Silverman said.
If the county discusses an arena for the site, there needs to be additional economic analysis of more than just residential uses and the arena, Councilman Marc B. Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park said.