A Letter From Ted Leonsis – April 2024

To our amazing fans and the entire Washington, D.C. area community, 

As we officially enter the offseason for both the Capitals and the Wizards, I am excited to share some thoughts on our teams’ recent performance and future trajectories, our growing business here at Monumental, and an increasingly brighter future for Downtown Washington, D.C. anchored by a soon-to-be transformed Capital One Arena. 

The Capitals 

We were thrilled to host playoff hockey again at Capital One Arena. We’ve made the playoffs fifteen times in the past seventeen seasons and there’s no greater energy than what you, the fans, bring to the team when we have the privilege of playing in front of you and for you during a home playoff game. 

We have built a generationally great franchise. This season, we mixed our veteran core players with younger talent who we have drafted and developed ourselves. Many of these younger players experienced a deep playoff run on their way to a Calder Cup with the AHL’s Hershey Bears last season. That experience proved to be invaluable to their development as NHL caliber players, and I am again quite optimistic that this most recent NHL playoff experience will further bolster their careers. Notably, the Caps had six players, five of whom are Caps draft picks, stepping into the playoffs for the first time – a testament to their growth and potential for our team’s future. The Capitals have ten players aged 26 or younger on their active roster, eight of whom set career highs in games played this regular season.  

It was also a remarkable regular season for our most respected veteran players. Alex Ovechkin reached the 30-goal mark for the 19th time in his career and is now only 42 goals away from passing Wayne Gretzky for first on the NHL’s all-time goals list. John Carlson has also done an incredible job of leading our team and mentoring our young defensemen. He led the NHL in total minutes played and played in every single regular season game. During the regular season, Carlson became the first defenseman and third player in franchise history to play all 1,000 games with the Caps, joining Ovechkin and Backstrom. In addition, he led all players in ice time, establishing a new career high. Charlie Lindgren also had a career year. He was a top 10 goalie and led the NHL in shutouts. 

It was a great mix for ensuring that we cultivate and build our team for the long run. I’m also so proud of Coach Carbery. As the youngest head coach in the NHL, it’s truly remarkable that he built a system that played to the strengths of our team, and took us to the playoffs, all in just his first season behind the bench. 

We made the playoffs despite trading some of our veteran players for draft picks with an eye towards the future during the NHL Trade Deadline. We acquired five picks this year in three separate deadline deals and now own 26 total picks in the next three drafts, including 14 in the first three rounds. Those next generation players will help us continue our tradition of excellence for this franchise.  

The Wizards 

When I announced Michael Winger as the new team President, and as he assembled his leadership team to include General Manager Will Dawkins, Senior VP of Player Personnel Travis Schlenk and Senior VP of Monumental Basketball John Thompson III, I directed them to take a deep, hard look at the organization and build towards a consistently high-performing franchise which fans can truly be proud of. 

Many of the days in the rearview mirror can fairly be characterized as difficult, frustrating, and sometimes painful. While our team record speaks for itself, we gained valuable momentum heading into the off-season with a resetting of expectations, principles, and direction.  

Player development was our priority for this 2023-24 season, and I am extremely proud of the gains that our players made – some incremental and others more substantial. They deserve all the credit for leaning into the program created by Michael and Will, committing to the work, and recognizing the marginal improvements every day in the absence of game wins. Their work rate, competitive character, and resilience were often what uplifted the rest of the team to attack another day with a force and optimism greater than the day before.   

This 2024 off-season is another important one in rebuilding the team with a long-term focus. At the top of Michael and Will’s list is to identify the next head coach of the Washington Wizards that can help steward us into the ensuing period of our roster reconstruction. Additionally, our young players and veterans alike will keep up their workouts, develop new skills, and continue sharpening their basketball minds.  

The draft is clearly an essential avenue for building our team. We’ll learn which pick we will secure during the draft lottery which lands on Mother’s Day in Chicago. We will have attractive opportunities to add young players to the team and transact on other key roster business. Free agency and trades, of course, allow for additional roster changes to the extent that they align with our long-term strategy of building a sustainable contender. Underpinning the off-season is the collection of high-character, high-caring, and high-ceiling players that already wear a Wizards uniform. There is hard work ahead of us.  

Thank you for giving us your trust to pursue a long-term strategy that will build our team into the winning franchise that we all want it to be. 

The Mystics 

While the Capitals and Wizards seasons conclude, the WNBA season is about to begin. We are truly – finally – witnessing the sport achieve the due recognition I’ve always believed it deserved. We were an early believer and established a WNBA franchise in Washington 26 years ago – and along the way have made great investments in both the team and the league. 

We contributed $4.5 million to the construction of the Entertainment & Sports Arena, the Mystics’ home, and have since made nearly $4 million in additional capital improvements. It was an investment to right-size the experience for where the league was six years ago. In that very first year that the Mystics played at the Entertainment & Sports Arena, they won their first championship. Fast forward to today, and they are already outgrowing the space, given the incredible transcendency of women’s sports.  

That is why we specifically negotiated in our Term Sheet with D.C. that at least four regular season games and all post-season games should have the option to move to Capital One Arena to facilitate larger crowds. We fully anticipated that we would need to accommodate high demand for WNBA games – which we have seen each year during our “Camp Day” game, played annually at Capital One Arena to massive crowds each summer. And we were right! We recently announced that we would be moving the game on June 7th between our Mystics and the Indiana Fever to Capital One Arena.  

Still, we love our home in Congress Heights and encourage you to check out a game this season, if you haven’t already. The feeling inside that arena is truly electric. I’m looking forward to being at the home opener on May 14th and invite you to join me as we welcome our top draft pick, Aaliyah Edwards from the University of Connecticut. She is a player who complements Shakira Austin in our front court. Her competitiveness, high-end defensive motor and fast improving offensive game will fit well with what General Manager Mike Thibault and head coach Eric Thibault are building for the team’s culture and future success. 

She will join a great team which includes Brittney Sykes who’s coming off a banner year, averaging career-highs in points (15.9), rebounds (5.9), assists (3.8) and steals (2.1) and was named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team. Olympian Ariel Atkins became the all-time leader in Mystics history in three-point shots made while Shakira Austin’s sophomore campaign was even better than her rookie season. Washington will compete with that exciting core of Ariel Atkins, Brittney Sykes, and Shakira Austin while also being mindful of the future. That includes key offseason additions in Stefanie Dolson and Karlie Samuelson.  

The growth of the Mystics fanbase and the WNBA as a league is something that I am very proud of – and that’s all because of you, the fans, who see the value in what we are trying to build. Two years ago, I invested into the first-ever, and the largest-ever capital raise for a women’s sports property. That outcome allowed the league to make great progress in growing the sport’s popularity and to better reach all of you.  

To give our fans even more access, we also pioneered the very first live pre- and post-game shows for all Mystics games on Monumental Sports Network – the exclusive local media rights holder for Mystics games. We hope you check out these excellent shows this season and you’ll understand why we are such strong believers. 

So again, I hope to see you on May 14th or at another game this season! 

Monumental Sports Network 

This season we formally launched Monumental Sports Network with its entirely new rebranded look, upgrades in technology and stellar programming lineup for Capitals and Wizards fans. For fans without a Pay TV subscription, Monumental Sports Network rolled out our first-ever direct-to-consumer (DTC) subscription memberships for viewers seeking to access Monumental Sports Network’s live and on-demand programming. And last month, the network unveiled a brand-new multi-million-dollar production facility and broadcast studio. Earlier this month, the network announced a slate of live alternate broadcasts for Washington Capitals and Wizards games with a rotation of hosts, analysts, and special guests. The platforms were an instant fan favorite, and we are excited to continue to develop the programming for next year.  

The NBA and WNBA viewership continues its ascent and is proving to be incredibly valuable, ranking high on fan engagement. Basketball is one of the world’s most popular sports, and the Monumental Sports family includes teams across multiple NBA verticals: the NBA, WNBA, G-League and NBA 2K League. Our network allows fans access to all of these games across our linear and digital platforms.  

The interest in live viewership of sports – particularly women’s sports – has been extraordinary. For example, the NCAA Women’s Basketball championship averaged nearly 14 million viewers. That is why we have invested heavily in our content, quality of production and digital offerings. The growth of our sports and teams have garnered interest not just locally, but nationally and globally, which is why the leagues and some of our fellow teams have joined us in pivoting to a “digital first” platform and world view. That is the structure which will allow us to continue to grow our audience, products and services.  

During the 2023-24 season, live Capitals games on Monumental Sports Network outperformed competitor programming during the same timeslot on competing channels like FS1 (99% of the time), ESPN2 (96%), TNT (70%), and ESPN (51%), according to Nielsen ratings in the D.C. media market. Viewership of Caps games improved dramatically as the season went on – increasing 60% in households from the early in the season until the end of regular season, with a major boost coming from the Caps playoff push late in the season.  

Similarly for the Wizards, Monumental Sports Network outperformed competitors at equally impressive rates: FS1 (90% of the time), ESPN2 (82%), and TNT (61%). And viewership also increased towards the end of the season across a variety of demographic groups, most notably 66% from March to April for those aged 25-54.  

When we launched our network, we added a streaming platform for our live games, and then added a direct-to-consumer subscription option on top of access for Pay TV subscribers. The network’s app download base saw a rapid increase since launching in September and as the regular season wrapped up, Monumental Sports Network was quickly approaching the 200,000 app download mark. 

We are proud of this extraordinary work and thank the fans who are tuning in to see their favorite teams and athletes. We look forward to debuting more exciting programming for the Mystics this summer and for the Capitals and Wizards in the 2024-25 season!

Venues 

Another highlight of our operation includes the diverse content hosted at our venues. Capital One Arena regularly draws fans south of Richmond, Virginia and from the north of Baltimore, Delaware and West Virginia. In just the past year, Drake’s back-to-back performances at Capital One Arena were the two highest-grossing arena concerts ever by a rapper. Recently we have hosted our highest attended concert in arena history with Zach Bryan and highest grossing concert with Bad Bunny. Capital One Arena is consistently in the top 20 globally in ticket sales and that trajectory will continue to climb for years to come. Event promoters recognize the Washington metropolitan area for its rapid growth, high concentration of high-income households, and strong concert attendance, making it a top choice among markets with dual NBA/NHL arenas. 

And that is why we have also seen records broken at the other venue operated by Monumental Sports, EagleBank Arena on the campus of George Mason University. When comedian Nate Bargatze performed in February, after a sold-out night a Capital One Arena, he broke the venue’s all-time gate record. In September of last year, the venue hosted its highest grossing event in the building’s history with Mexican Latin pop group RBD. 

While we have come to the end of our NHL and NBA seasons – neither Capital One Arena nor EagleBank Arena will not be dark for many days in the months ahead. Between the start of May and the end of September, we have already announced nearly forty concerts and events! Incredible acts like Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, Blink 182, Olivia Rodrigo, Missy Elliot, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Cirque du Soliel, Jelly Roll and more. Be sure to check out www.CapitalOneArena.com and https://www.eaglebankarena.com for all the latest listings and we hope to see you at a show soon! 

Philanthropy 

I have always run Monumental Sports & Entertainment to be a company which is committed to a double bottom line: our business is only as successful as the positive impact that we make on our community. And this 2023-24 season was no exception. 

We were recently recognized by Washington Business Journal as one of this region’s Top Corporate Philanthropists, and it’s an honor which we take great pride in. With over $4 million in cash contributions through our Monumental Sports Foundation and each of our team’s efforts, over $5 million in in-kind contributions, thousands of hours of community volunteer work of our employees and shining a spotlight on local businesses and nonprofits on our highly-trafficked social media sites, websites, digital boards inside and outside of the arena – we know we are making a difference. Our goal is to empower those who are already doing excellent work in the community and use our platform to aid their efforts so many more throughout this region can share in a sense of belonging and prosperity.  

Each season we strive to do more and give back to the fans who are the reason why we do this work – and we’ll have more to do this summer with the Mystics who are exemplar community leaders.  

Revitalizing Downtown Washington, D.C. and Capital One Arena 

When Mayor Bowser and I signed a Term Sheet to transform Capital One Arena and our game day experience, the document represented a true partnership between the District and Monumental Sports to invest into downtown in an integrated way for our fans and the community.  

The District and Monumental Sports share a vision to create a transformational entertainment district that is a destination for neighbors and visitors and to ensure the vibrancy of downtown for years to come. Reimagining Capital One Area will allow us to grow our business and expand our hospitality offerings, creating a best-in-class experience for our fans and athletes. With the Mayor and City Council working collaboratively, the city has implemented several measures since December 2023 that lay the groundwork for a more promising, dynamic future. 

This past weekend, we hosted two NHL Playoff games and filled the streets around Gallery Place with tens of thousands of fans on both nights. I drove and walked around the neighborhood and was so happy to see the District’s commitment to creating an incredible environment: cleaning crews across multiple streets, police presence, productive traffic mitigation. We thank the Mayor, Council, MPD and first responders for putting the welfare of our visitors, fans and small businesses around the arena front and center.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be joining the Mayor to discuss the benefits of investing in and locating in D.C., aimed at audiences across the country. Other businesses, retail, hospitality, and start-ups should see all we have to offer in the nation’s capital, and I will do my part to champion the incredible work that has already been done and is planned for the future.  

Now, we will roll up our sleeves to reimagine a sports and entertainment experience that this region will call home for the next generation. 

I know you would like to see renderings and more details of what is included in the planning – and rest assured we will share those as soon as we have them available. What we are working to build is the best sports and entertainment experience which our great fans deserve. That includes easier access into and out of our building, better sightlines to the action on the floor from all possible angles around the arena and getting more fans closer access to the floor from new premium spaces. We want fans to enjoy wider concourses to move easily to concessions and retail and upgraded and faster stops at restrooms. We also have one of the most tech savvy fan bases in the world and want to make use of the latest mobile technologies, AI-enabled efficiencies and our interconnected data platform to provide the most immersive fan experience possible.  

Those are just some of the things you will see – but there are also many improvements we need for this nearly 27-year-old building which will happen behind the scenes, particularly for our athletes. Still, they are hugely important to all that we are able to deliver for fans, players, artists and our employees.  

Outside the building and around the neighborhood, the Mayor has set forth a bold vision on reimagining spaces for parks and pedestrian areas across the streets surrounding the arena. As articulated in the Downtown DC Public Realm Plan, which I encourage you to read, the city has three big ideas for a Gallery Place Festival Plaza: transforming F and G Streets between 7th and 9th into a year-round market; calming traffic on 8th Street to create a space for people and play; and, partnering with anchor and cultural institutions, like Capital One Arena, to activate the public realm. We are excited by this vision and the additional benefits that it will bring to the 2+ million visitors who visit the arena annually.  

I hope you share in our excitement for this bold new vision for the greatest city in the world, but I also welcome your ideas on what you want to see! Please share with us what you would like to see in a fan experience, and I promise I will read and consider every idea.  

You can send in your ideas for me here: https://monumentalsports.formstack.com/forms/suggestions 

Thank you, again 

I close with a note of sincere gratitude to all the fans. I have shared with you some of our recent highlights and what I’m excited about – but rest assured that I know that there is hard work ahead of us: across our teams, our building, our business, and our city. 

In the last year, three of our teams qualified for their respective league playoffs: The Mystics in the WNBA, the Capital City Go-Go in the NBA’s G League and the Capitals in the NHL. We look forward to more playoff runs and, ultimately, winning championships across all of our teams for you – the fans.  

Thank you again, for cheering with us during the highs and standing with us during the lows. I could not be more optimistic and engaged on all fronts to deliver for the best fans in all of sports and entertainment and all of our neighbors across our community. 

Ted  

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