Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:30 PM
Published on: Thursday, August 22, 2013
By Holden Wilen
DERWOOD – While Montgomery County Councilman Hans Riemer and other county officials are trying to figure out how to improve the county’s nightlife, a development group is stepping up its efforts to boost the nighttime economy by building a multipurpose arena in Shady Grove.
The problem? According to the man behind the plan, government red tape is keeping the project on hold and according to County Executive Ike Leggett, the plan may be at least a year from breaking ground.
“We need to have something there,” Leggett said. “We don’t have anything like that in the county. We have no place where we can hold graduations. We have nothing at all.”
Tom Doyle, co-owner of D&A Sports, said after meeting with members of the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority this week, he remains convinced an arena can and will be built. Doyle’s vision is a venue which could host high school graduations, major concerts, and be a magnet for businesses in the Gaithersburg-Rockville-Derwood area. He concedes the county may require a master plan amendment or zoning amendment to make the project happen, but remains hopeful after pushing for six years the arena will be built.
“It is potentially very advantageous for the county. We can create jobs and help existing businesses,” Doyle said. “And the government doesn’t have to pay a dime for it.”
“I like the idea of (the arena),” Leggett said. “But I have to see the full plan and all the details. I have nothing before me.”
D&A Sports and Entertainment LLC is the development group looking to build a privately-funded $50 million, 6,500-seat arena on land west of the Shady Grove metro station owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
“We have got to find out if an amendment is needed. The development group has to present a site plan to the planning department. That is when they will determine if the project is allowed under existing zoning and so forth,” said Councilman Hans Riemer. “If any kind of changes are needed then they will need to come before the council and seek those.”
Doyle said he is confident a master plan amendment is not needed, but if it is necessary, he and his group are willing to go through the steps to get one written and approved.
“You want to get the project done so you can create jobs and so forth. Does [red tape] slow it down? Yes. That is the kind of thing that needs to be fixed in the county,” Doyle said. “It is frustrating, but it is just something we have to live with. I think the project has been well supported, and the county executive supports us.”
Riemer said the county needs to look at whether any revisions are needed in the zoning rules, but he thinks the arena is an interesting idea with lots of potential. The arena proposal is not before the council right now, he said, but he agreed the council needs to do what it can to cut the red tape.
“We need to look at projects like that arena and say this is an exciting opportunity for Montgomery County. Let’s get this done and make this a priority,” Riemer said. “Prioritizing some of those kinds of investments is a good investment for the county and a good investment for the community. Making it happen – that is what we need. We need some moxie to make some of these things happen.”
Doyle said the arena could provide a venue for schools to hold graduation ceremonies, and it could also play host to basketball tournaments, concerts and other events. Additionally, Doyle said the Arena Football League has contacted him about bringing a team to the county.
The arena will be beneficial to the county, Doyle said, because it will stimulate existing businesses and encourage new economic growth.
Steve Silverman, director for the county’s economic development department, told the Sentinel in March he and County Executive Ike Leggett support the arena because of the wide-range of potential uses the arena could provide for the county.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to bring sporting events and cultural events to a larger audience,” Silverman said. “We see a need and an opportunity.”
Doyle said his priority right now is cementing an agreement with WMATA to use the land – a move he hopes to complete in the next few weeks. Once made, D&A Sports and Entertainment will need to perform engineering and environment studies. A traffic study will also need to be performed to show the arena will not have a major traffic impact. The studies could take several months.
There is not a projected date to break ground, but Doyle said it would probably take 14-16 months to build the arena when construction does eventually begin. Doyle said his group has already identified Sink Combs Dethlefs, an architectural firm based out of Denver, Colo., to design the arena. The firm has helped design arenas throughout the country, such as Chesapeake Energy Arena, which hosts the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association.
For now, Doyle said he and his development group are moving along with the process, ready to begin conducting studies, and hoping they do not need to get a master plan amendment or zoning amendment.
“If an amendment is not needed, then things can move much quicker. When digging can begin, some of that is dependent on when we need do some of those other things like the traffic study,” Doyle said. “I am very positive and optimistic about the process.”
Posted By: ambd0407 On: 9/3/2013
Title: THIS IS RIDICULOUS
Candi, I am with you. I have lived in Derwood for the past 15 years and I will seriously consider moving if this project happens. I see NOTHING in this article indicating: (1) that any improvements will be made to the existing and already unsafe Metro station; (2) how to replace the Metro parking that will be lost; (3) how to ease the already considerable congestion that will multiply exponentially as a result of THOUSANDS of visitors to the arena on a near-daily basis, etc., etc. Anyone who lives near or passes through the area daily knows an arena is just a ridiculous idea unless the necessary infrastructure is put in place before the thing is built. As I have mentioned in the past, I think every member of the County Council and Ike Leggett need to ride the Metro from Shady Grove into downtown every weekday for a month and experience my daily commute before they build anything else near that Metro station.
Posted By: Candi Wood On: 8/28/2013
Title: Not in Derwood!
As if traffic isn't bad enough in our neighborhood and now you want to add this?! Time for me to move out of Derwood and maybe even MoCo!
Posted By: Carol Hyland On: 8/24/2013
Title: citizen and taxpayer of Montgomery County
Would you men want this huge arena--6,500-- in your backyard? Well, neither do I.
Where will I park my car so that I can use the Metro?
Why don't you look on the OTHER side of 270?