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Paola Moya was part of the design team that collaborated with Detroit-based international sports design firm, ROSSETTI.


Mayor Muriel Bowser calls it “bigger than basketball.” District officials will cut the ribbon on Events DC’s new Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA) at the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus this Saturday, September 22, at 10:30 a.m. The $65 million arena is set to transform the area of Ward 8 Congress Heights in Washington, D.C.
The St. Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena is an innovative, state-of-the-art hybrid NBA training facility and performance hall. The 118,000 sq. ft., 4,200-seat venue will be the home court for the WNBA‘s Washington Mystics and the NBA G League’s Capital City Go-Go. It will also be the first-line training facility for the Washington Wizards of the NBA. When not hosting basketball, the ESA has the flexibility to host e-sports, concerts, and events.
Paola Moya was the CEO of Marshall Moya Design, who partnered with Detroit-based ROSSETTI as Associate Architect for the arena. “I’m proud to have worked with Events DC and ROSSETTI on this groundbreaking sports venue that will serve as the first WNBA-dedicated facility in the league,” said Paola, now CEO of Moya Design Partners. “The arena’s opening introduces a new community asset and economic generator to our city, and I am honored to have played a part in that process.”
The ESA was funded by Events DC, the city, and Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Mystics (WNBA), and Capital One Arena. The city owns the ESA, and Events DC will operate it. Events DC is the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia.
Construction began in 2016. “When we first set forth on the Entertainment and Sports Arena project with our partners, Events DC committed to Washington, DC that we wouldn’t just build a new arena, but a world-class sporting and entertainment venue that was built for and alongside the local DC community,” said Max Brown, chairman of the board for Events DC.
“We also continue to be steadfast on delivering jobs to the local community and meeting a 50% minority business goal, the most ever on a DC public project, and I, personally, remain unwavering and accountable to exceeding these targets. Our city deserves an arena that is iconic, and this project will fulfill that vision.”


The arena is part of the 2 million sq. ft. redevelopment of St. Elizabeth’s East, which includes thousands of units of new housing, office, and retail spaces. The goal is to kick-start the area by creating a hub for housing, employment, tech, and cultural events, creating more “pathways to the middle class” as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s new series of economic initiatives.
“The ESA is about jobs, opportunity, and community; it’s about ensuring that every neighborhood, in every corner of our city, has world-class housing and amenities,” Mayor Bowser said. Brown called it “a much-needed economic boost.”
The arena is set to generate $90 million in revenue over 20 years and draw more than 380,000 visitors annually. Events DC awarded over $10 million in contracts to businesses in Wards 7 and 8, and the project has produced hundreds of jobs.
“This is going to be one of the next great mixed-use projects in the District of Columbia,” Brian Kenner, D.C.’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said. “This is really going to be the first stage of that transformation.”‘
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According to ROSSETTI, state-of-the-art luxury training facilities are sweeping the NBA. Teams in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Toronto opened new venues recently, and Philadelphia, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Boston are either planning or building their own.
D.C.’s ESA is unique, however, with amenities for multiple teams and the ability to transform into a performance space. Two distinct buildings house the basketball program with the entertainment arena at the center. For the arena’s innovative bowl, Events DC requested a split-level seating design. On the left is the setup for concerts, while on the right is the setup for basketball games. About 900 seats retract into the wall during the games.
The NBA practice facilities are world-class with amenities intended to drive recruitment, including two practice courts, a kitchen, hydrotherapy, and comfortable lounges for relaxation and socializing. The concourse and lobby are located on the perimeter of the building and will feature gallery space and local food venues.
The brick-toned exterior relates to the historic St. Elizabeth’s campus while creating a distinctive urban landmark. A turn-up above the entrance accentuates the roof line and exposes the inner bowl, so fans can see in from outside. The undulating roof relates to the Gateway DC pavilion next door, which has its own stand-out design. Part of the effort to give back to the community was to include retail spaces that will remain open when the rest of the arena is closed. Events DC has secured a number of restaurants and shops, anchored by popular Smoked & Stacked sandwiches.
“The most exciting aspects of this project are also the most challenging for the design team,” said Tony Reiner, Design Lead at ROSSETTI. “We had to be very strategic in order to design welcoming spaces for the community while integrating the private spaces that professional basketball players require. We were also careful to reflect the context of the building’s environment and imagine how the building will evolve under Events DC’s operation for future uses.”
Gregory O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC, praised the design: “We applaud our partners, joint venture of architectural firms, Washington, DC-based Marshall Moya Design and ROSSETTI for developing a design that achieves so many goals: re-imagining an underserved area of the city and creating an iconic civic space that will celebrate the best of this community’s great past and even brighter future.”
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 22, the grand opening celebration will continue with two showcase events: On Oct. 6, Mary J. Bilge will perform with Jacob Banks, and on Oct. 13, Cage the Elephant will perform with Judah & The Lion. Tickets for both are already available. You can see the full ESA schedule here.


The ESA was designed under Paola Moya’s leadership as CEO of Marshall Moya Design. We collaborated with ROSSETTI ArchitectsGilbane Building CompanySetty & Associates, and Wiles Mensch Corporation. In 2017, Paola launched her own design studio, Moya Design Partners. At MOYA, she oversees a talented team to deliver cutting-edge architecture, interiors, graphic design, and branding services.
Image courtesy ROSSETTI and Events DC