She mentioned Metro was unfairly pressuring the bank to pay for the naming rights fairly than granting them free.
The legislative tussle rose from Metro’s newfound curiosity in promoting naming rights to non-public firms for its stations. For years, the transit system has resisted doing so, viewing stations as landmarks with names that ought to match their surrounding neighborhoods.
The coronavirus pandemic’s crushing financial impact has prompted Metro to rethink that coverage. Naming rights doubtlessly may carry it tens of millions at a time when the transit company is going through declining income amid a historic drop in ridership.
As Metro was rethinking the coverage, Tysons-based Capital One expressed curiosity in including the name of its new theater to the McLean station. The bank provided to pay the prices related to altering signage and received the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on board. The county then requested Metro, which in the end makes naming selections.
That didn’t sit properly with Howell, chairwoman of the highly effective Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. She tucked the ultimatum to Metro into a large state price range bill: Change the name free or lose out on $22.4 million in devoted capital funding the state already had dedicated to present.
Howell, whose district consists of Capital One Tower and the McLean station, accused Metro of in search of to extract cash from the corporate after it constructed a venue to serve the general public — a venue large enough that it deserves its name on the Metro station close by, she mentioned.
“Capital One is putting in a community theater, and so letting the public know where to get off the Metro would be very helpful for that,” Howell mentioned. “And the [Fairfax County] Board of Supervisors had also approved it. So this was a last-minute effort by [Metro] to just extract money, and I wanted to put a stop to it.”
One of the nation’s 10 largest banks, Capital One occupies the 470-foot Capital One Tower — the tallest occupied constructing within the Washington metro space. The firm employs more than 9,000 people within the area and earned $28.5 billion in income final 12 months.
The new 1,600-seat Capital One Hall efficiency middle on the corporate’s campus will host symphonies, performs, live shows and different main occasions meant to draw individuals from throughout the area. The $120 million facility is anticipated to open this fall.
“As long as [the name change] is something that’s not a profitmaking thing but of public value, a public accommodation that will be used by our people, that’s okay,” mentioned Sen. David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax), a member of the finance panel’s transportation subcommittee, which authorized the modification.
While Metro receives funding from Virginia, Maryland and the District, it operates independently, with a board that features representatives of every of the jurisdictions and the federal authorities. Howell’s modification seems to threaten Metro’s proper to name its personal stations and negotiate its personal agreements with non-public firms.
Competing variations of the price range bill that include the renaming stipulation are being debated by Virginia lawmakers. Both sides are figuring out variations over college funding, restarting in-school instruction and different points throughout a particular session in its closing days.
Metro mentioned its governing board hasn’t determined what it can do if Virginia’s share of capital funding is held up by the Senate’s demands. Capital One says it’s staying away from the controversy.
Marsden mentioned he didn’t know a lot concerning the modification, which slid by way of the transportation subcommittee just about unnoticed with no dialogue. But he had an evidence.
“It’s politics,” Marsden mentioned.
Metro’s seek for artistic options
Capital One started lobbying for the name change final fall, asking the Fairfax County board for its assist. County leaders unanimously voted on a decision in September asking Metro for the change.
Metro typically grants station name modifications by way of requests from cities and counties, that are accountable for the prices of latest indicators, maps and different authorized steps related to making such a change. In Capital One’s case, the corporate provided to pay prices estimated at greater than $320,000.
Over its 45-year historical past, Metro has chosen not to name or rename stops for extensively agreed-upon factors of reference which can be privately owned or sponsored, akin to Nationals Park or Capital One Arena, which has modified names a number of instances. Granting one company request may depart the transit company in a good authorized spot in its means to reject others. Officials additionally observe that companies change names and exit of enterprise, whereas Metro stations are ceaselessly.
In the case of Capital One, Metro’s board of administrators expressed curiosity in exploring a sale or lease of the name, in accordance to a Jan. 15 letter that Metro board chairman Paul C. Smedberg despatched to Jeff McKay (D-At Large), chairman of the Fairfax board.
“The McLean station offers a unique opportunity for commercial importance to the region, as transit properties in many cities are developing mutually beneficial partnerships through station naming sponsorships which provide high visibility for corporate brands while generating critically needed non-fare revenue for transit operations,” Smedberg wrote.
Smedberg wrote that he licensed Metro staffers to discover a naming-rights sponsorship with Capital One.
Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly mentioned transit officers had approached Capital One primarily based on Smedberg’s route, however she declined to say whether or not the corporate confirmed curiosity, calling it a “contractual matter.” The firm declined to touch upon its discussions with Metro.
A Capital One official who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of the sensitivity of the discussions mentioned the corporate has not engaged in critical negotiations, as a result of it’s unclear about Metro’s intentions. While Smedberg has expressed curiosity in a potential sponsorship settlement, the board has not lifted its coverage in opposition to promoting business naming rights.
Howell mentioned she was not approached by anybody to craft the modification requiring Metro to change the name if it needed its annual capital contribution from Virginia. She mentioned that she spoke with Capital One earlier than submitting the modification and that the corporate expressed displeasure at being charged for the name change.
“They were upset about being squeezed for money for a naming that was already approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors,” she mentioned.
Howell mentioned Capital One shouldn’t have to pay for signage for what will likely be a neighborhood theater and place of public use.
“That’s why their name’s on it. They paid for it,” she mentioned. “I do not think they will be getting free publicity. The public will be getting needed information about a major venue.”
McKay mentioned that Fairfax County leaders didn’t ask state senators to intervene and that the county doesn’t assist the price range modification in Richmond.
“At Capital One’s request, our Board unanimously endorsed changing the name of [Metro’s] McLean Station to the McLean-Capital One Hall Station in support of the arts and the soon-to-open venue,” he mentioned in a press release. “The [Metro] Board declined to rename the station. Though I’m aware of a budget amendment in Richmond that has been proposed since our action, the County had nothing to do with it and we do not support it. We have not been involved further.”
Capital One mentioned in a press release that its representatives didn’t foyer state legislators for the modification and haven’t mentioned the modification with Fairfax County officers.
“The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors submitted a unanimous petition to [Metro] in September requesting to change the name of the McLean Metro station,” the corporate mentioned. “Capital One joined state and local leaders and community organizations supporting this routine request and we committed to cover the County’s costs of the name change. We are not involved in the budget negotiation process and hope [Metro] and Fairfax County engage in productive dialogue.”
Metro issued a press release saying it was conscious of the laws whereas declining to talk about specifics. The company has made no determination on the way it plans to reply to the modification.
Support from Va. legislators
The Virginia General Assembly dedicated in 2018 to present Metro with annual funding for capital bills, however lawmakers have the ability to withhold it. Two years in the past, Maryland withheld funding from Metro for months till the transit company agreed to extra auditing and detailed monetary reporting.
Howell’s modification was inserted into Senate Bill 1100 earlier than a Feb. 10 assembly of the transportation subcommittee, information present.
Marsden mentioned he didn’t recall any committee dialogue on the addition, however he mentioned its intent appears to be in keeping with the pursuits of Virginians and Metro clients. Putting main live performance halls on subway stops, he mentioned, is “common practice.”
“Things that are public venues that are going to be used by the public — which is what this hall is all about — I see [their names] on other subway stops around the country,” Marsden mentioned.
Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), a member of the subcommittee, mentioned in a textual content message that he didn’t “recall being part of the subcommittee discussion.” A employees member from the workplace of Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) mentioned she was not concerned within the modification.
Four different members of the Senate subcommittee — Chairman George L. Barker (D-Fairfax), Richard L. Saslaw (D-Springfield), Stephen D. Newman (R-Forest) and Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta) didn’t reply to The Washington Post’s requests for remark.
Capital One is a big donor to a number of Virginia politicians, which isn’t uncommon for a corporation of its measurement. Campaign finance records present it donated $134,550 to varied political campaigns within the state final 12 months, together with to these of Howell and a number of other members of the transportation subcommittee.
An evolution on name modifications
In a 2012 survey, a majority of Metro riders mentioned they didn’t need business entities connected to station names, an element that went into the Metro board’s consideration when it final formally revisited the naming-rights coverage, that very same 12 months.
Board members briefly picked up the difficulty once more in 2017 amid the monetary pressure of a $125 million price range gap. In 2019, months after Amazon dedicated to constructing a second headquarters in Northern Virginia, Metro explored the chance once more, asking consulting firms to submit proposals on how a lot cash they thought the transit company may herald by renting out station names.
In November 2019, Metro appeared prepared to make the leap. Metro staffers introduced board members a proposal to promote naming rights to the Innovation Center Metro station on the yet-to-open Silver Line extension to a “Fortune Global 500 Company,” officers mentioned on the time.
But the board by no means publicly mentioned the proposal, which was pulled after Fairfax County supervisors opposed it.
In November 2020, Metro’s board authorized requests from Fairfax and Prince George’s counties to rename two stops. The Tysons Corner station — subsequent door to the McLean station — will grow to be Tysons when the brand new Silver Line extension opens, whereas the Prince George’s Plaza station is being renamed Hyattsville Crossing.
In December, two extra station names had been tweaked. The transit system dropped “UVA” from the West Falls Church-VT station after the University of Virginia relocated certainly one of its campuses. Meanwhile, town of Alexandria efficiently requested that Metro add “VT” to the brand new Potomac Yard station to mark the brand new Virginia Tech campus close by.
None of the modifications contain a company name.
Antonio Olivo and Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.