As Montgomery County Public Schools prepares to graduate most of its high school seniors at venues outside the county again this year, a proposed arena years in the making is poised to take a step forward.
Developers have been eyeing about 8 acres of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority land at the Shady Grove Metro Station currently used for parking as a proposed site for an arena that could host, among other events, high school graduations.
Montgomery County awarded developer D&A Sports and Entertainment with the project more than six years ago. Project plans are on track for Metro’s consideration this summer, said Tom Doyle, principal of Rockville-based D&A Sports and Entertainment.
But parking and how much of it will be built has held up the submission.
Steve Silverman, Montgomery County director of Economic Development said Metro will require the developer to replace parking lost by building over the surface lot, and it would have to be structured.
“That obviously is a lot more costly than replacing surface parking. We’re trying to figure out how to do that,” he said.
Doyle said the question was not just replacing the lost parking but whether to add extra spaces.
“It makes a lot of sense if we’re going to build this thing — Shady Grove metro is pretty much full all the time anyway — that we’re looking to the future and adding more spots,” Doyle said. “Once the county and our side, D&A, drill down and finalize this, in next 30 to 45 days we’ll send off it to Metro hopefully.”
Silverman is hopeful the lingering issues can be resolved by July.
“The Executive [Isiah Leggett] is still very interested in it primarily for graduation purposes and other large scale events,” Silverman said.
Most Montgomery County high schools hold commencement at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., which costs more than what’s allotted by the school system, forcing the schools to charge students a fee to graduate.
Once built, the arena will absolutely be available each year for graduation ceremonies, Doyle said.
“That is a mandatory requirement of this whole project for us,” he said. “I went to public school in Montgomery County and everybody before and after me has had to suffer with going somewhere else.”
Even if Metro green-lights plans for the arena, Silverman said the county could still require a master plan or zoning amendment for the project.
If the master plan must be amended, minor master plan amendments are the county’s quickest process and those can take about a year to complete.
“The sooner we start, the more jobs start to be created,” Doyle noted.
In addition to graduation ceremonies, the arena looks to be the home of an arena football league and an ice rink, he said.