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BOB JOHNSON INCREASES PRESSURE FOR PRIVATE- OWNED DC ARENA
Published October 3, 1994
BET CEO Robert Johnson vowed to try to build a 23,000-seat sports arena in Washington, DC, regardless of whether Bullets owner Abe Pollin agrees to move his teams to it. Johnson said Riggs National Bank is willing to lend him up to $172M to build a new facility downtown. If the Bullets and Capitals don't move, Johnson said he will "seek to attract" an NBA team from outside the area before building the arena. Johnson's comments, made at a lunch with WASHINGTON POST reporters and editors, "are part of an effort to increase pressure on District officials to accept his offer to privately finance the arena rather than use taxpayer funds." Pollin is now negotiating with business leaders and a DC task force to move his teams from the USAir Arena to a downtown facility. Under a preliminary proposal struck before Johnson made his offer, "construction of the arena would be financed by a special city tax." City officials are reluctant to go along with Johnson's proposal because he cannot ensure the Caps and Bullets would move to the arena. Johnson would prefer to have Pollin's teams move there, "but Pollin is unlikely to accept Johnson's terms: that if Pollin later decided to sell the teams, the prospective new owner would have to renegotiate the arena lease with Johnson" (Farhi & Mills, WASHINGTON POST, 10/1). TWO- TEAM CITY? Two DC City Council members said the deal between Pollin and the Nation Capital Development Corp. (NCDC) is better for the city, because Pollin has teams to put in the arena. But Johnson claims he could lure another NBA team if Pollin does not play in his arena. Johnson suggested the following teams: Pacers, Timberwolves, Supersonics & Clippers (WASHINGTON POST, 10/1).