Capital Region CATALYZE

Fresh Take ft. Monica Dixon

June 07, 2021 Greater Washington Partnership Season 1 Episode 11
Fresh Take ft. Monica Dixon
Capital Region CATALYZE
More Info
Capital Region CATALYZE
Fresh Take ft. Monica Dixon
Jun 07, 2021 Season 1 Episode 11
Greater Washington Partnership

This Fresh Take interview featured Monica Dixon, President, External Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Monica discussed the District’s path to reopening, diversity, and inclusion in the sports industry, and the future of cities in the post-pandemic era.

Hosted by JB Holston.  Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez. 

Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.

About our guest:

Monica Dixon currently serves  as President, External Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer, at Monumental Sports managing communications, government relations, strategic planning and project management throughout the organization.  spent her career providing strategic and management consulting for high-profile individuals and institutions, including the White House, national advocacy organizations, and candidates for federal office.  Monica has been a top strategist to the Vice President, CEOs, Corporations, Board of Directors, and campaigns and issue-based organizations on matters of management, strategic communications, and public affairs.

Those who Monica has advised include the Clinton White House, where she served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Vice President Al Gore and as an Assistant to the President; the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, for which she served as Chief of Staff; as a Strategic Consultant to the Senate Democratic Leadership, as a Voter Communication’s Director of the leadership political committee; Americans Coming Together, a national advocacy group; and for Forward Together, a committee chaired by Senator Mark Warner, for which she was Executive Director.

Show Notes Transcript

This Fresh Take interview featured Monica Dixon, President, External Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Monica discussed the District’s path to reopening, diversity, and inclusion in the sports industry, and the future of cities in the post-pandemic era.

Hosted by JB Holston.  Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez. 

Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.

About our guest:

Monica Dixon currently serves  as President, External Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer, at Monumental Sports managing communications, government relations, strategic planning and project management throughout the organization.  spent her career providing strategic and management consulting for high-profile individuals and institutions, including the White House, national advocacy organizations, and candidates for federal office.  Monica has been a top strategist to the Vice President, CEOs, Corporations, Board of Directors, and campaigns and issue-based organizations on matters of management, strategic communications, and public affairs.

Those who Monica has advised include the Clinton White House, where she served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Vice President Al Gore and as an Assistant to the President; the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, for which she served as Chief of Staff; as a Strategic Consultant to the Senate Democratic Leadership, as a Voter Communication’s Director of the leadership political committee; Americans Coming Together, a national advocacy group; and for Forward Together, a committee chaired by Senator Mark Warner, for which she was Executive Director.

Monica Dixon  0:00  
The players by talking about some of their own experiences our staff by talking and sharing with other members of the staff who come from a pretty wide wide place of privilege. Heard about these struggles in a way that they they just never knew and never understood.

Nina Sharma  0:26  
Welcome to fresh take a candid interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators from across the capital region. These one on one conversations, highlight the incredible work happening in our communities, and showcase both where we are and where we are going as a region.

JB Holston  0:46  
My guest today is Monica Dixon. Hello, Monica. And there, Monica, you get the room rate of 10 award for that backdrop.

Monica Dixon  0:56  
Beautiful downtown DC, right? It's right outside Capital One. 

JB Holston  0:59  
Perfect. There you go. That's that was gonna be my next question on my mind is not virtual either. I can actually touch it, although it looks like it's virtual there. But it's great to see you. Thanks for for joining us today. And I'm looking forward to this conversation. For those of you who don't know, Monica, Monica is the President for External Affairs and the Chief Administrative Officer at monumental sports and entertainment, where she manages communications, government relations, strategic planning and project management. Monica's career is centered on strategic management consulting for high profile individuals institutions, including the White House national advocacy organizations and candidates for federal office, top strategist focusing on management, Strategic Communications and Public Affairs for everyone from the US Vice President, to CEOs of major corporations, numerous boards of directors, political campaigns and issue based organizations. Monica, welcome. Thanks for joining us. Thank you. I'm happy to be here. Great. Lots of things that I wanted to talk about today, but I thought we'd talk a little bit about you and your journey. Tell me if I if I have this right. Did you grew up in South Dakota? I sure did. So I am that sort of Western roots with you, JV and

Monica Dixon  2:10  
grew up moving around a little bit, but primarily in South Dakota, went to college there and came to Washington, when Tom Dasho was elected to the US Senate and worked for him my home state senator on the hill, and then kind of moved around Washington like people do. from politics to advocacy to business, all here in the city.

JB Holston  2:34  
Got it got. That's great. Well, I won't ask you when because you already did yourself by national? Well, you've obviously seen a lot of change, maybe we can talk a little what first of all, what brought you to monumental if we could and I want to talk a little bit about monumental itself so that people have a good understanding of what what monumental is. Sure.

Monica Dixon  2:55  
Well, um, you know, what ties us together, and I'm sure we'll talk about this later, too, is how I got to monumental. And that was on the Olympic bid that we put forward for Washington, DC, a few years back back in 2014 2015. And it was it was a very unique board. It was elected leaders, but it was business leaders. And it was a lot of the sports industry for obvious reasons. And I got to know Ted and other owners in the sports world and built a relationship. And Ted thought that that same kind of planning and projects that we were so deeply engaged on together at the Olympic Movement was something that could be useful at monumental and so I joined here just about five years ago, and have continued working with Ted and and the company since then.

JB Holston  3:53  
That's great. Well, thanks for that. And we will come back and talk a little bit more about the Olympic bid and the partnership and the region, generally. But if you would share a little bit about what what all is within the monumental umbrella. Sure, sure.

Monica Dixon  4:08  
Monumental is the overall company that owns the Washington Capitals, the Washington Wizards, the mystics and now a Gili team, the watch the district gogo, and we also have esports team that's engaged in NBA touquet software and, and competition. And so we have this sort of umbrella relationship with all of our our teams and help to coordinate everything from HR, PR, legal finance, and then the teams themselves operate the day to day of those of those teams.

JB Holston  4:51  
Got it? Great and then and monumental has other shareholders. Is that right other than just

Monica Dixon  4:57  
got it TED is the majority partner and owner But there are a handful of other owners that that participate with us and all the fun and all that work.

JB Holston  5:07  
Yeah, I'm sure. And then it Ted, I know is associated through initiatives like revolution in investments in some other sometimes adjacent areas as well. How does that relate to monumental is that are those separate parallel activities? Are they related in any way?

Monica Dixon  5:23  
You know, they're they are separate. But Ted is this great convener and connector of dots. And so he's allowed us to here at monumental to engage in relationships with companies like sports radar, and clear, and, and others. And it it provides a rich dialogue and opportunity for innovation. And I think, but for Ted's ability to bring all these different kinds of businesses and people together, we wouldn't have the opportunity to do some of the new things that we've done over the years. And, and, and, and the relationship with revolution has certainly been key to that.

JB Holston  6:04  
Yeah, that's great. I want to come back and talk a little bit more about the region and some of that connectivity. And also, for you have a chance, even things like clearer and some of these innovations and how they may play with respect to critical questions like vaccine passports, fun things like that. But maybe we could focus right now just on kind of reopening. And what's ahead of us. Today's an exciting day, right? Yeah, so tell if you could just talk a little bit about where things stand in terms of the sports teams being able to actually have fans again,

Monica Dixon  6:34  
exactly. Well, we were thrilled when we received a waiver from the city that would allow us 10% of our total capacity to participate in games. And so we welcome fans back last week for the first wizards game. And it equates to about 2100 people, the arena holds just over 21,000. And what we did to try to enhance a feeling of safety and to create a low risk environment is we split that 2100 group of fans into four neighborhoods, and we ought we they entered an exit through one door closest to where they were sitting. And they stayed in the neighborhoods section, where they were located. And each of those neighborhoods had concessions and restrooms and a and a retail store. So it just allowed us to operate the building in a very safe way. We had our first game last week, our second game on Sunday and our third game last night, which was a heartbreaking loss in overtime for the wizards who've been playing so well. But tonight is the first game with the capitals. And we're really excited not only to have the ice back down in the arena, which they switched over last night, but to welcome some special people back into the arena tonight, that caps have asked us to bring in a couple 100 of our frontline workers. So we have people from MedStar, we have folks who work at giant, and many of the fire and emergency services departments from the counties around the region, who will be in the stance tonight. So it gives us an opportunity to honor those heroes who've been taking care of us for the last 15 months, and should be an exciting way to have the caps back on the ice.

JB Holston  8:25  
Yeah, well, that's fantastic. Well, I we probably won't have time to talk about it. But having been an ABS fan, I am hoping down the line here. You know, that'll be the ultimate Stanley Cup final.

Monica Dixon  8:35  
Yes. Well, we'll bring you on board, we'll get you know, you come to a couple of gaps games and you'll be you'll be better. Yeah, yeah.

JB Holston  8:44  
I'm sure. It's an amazing team. And they look a little tougher than the apps. But the apps have a lot of finesse. I will say so. But but that is you and I talked a little bit about you know how important the pace of reopening is to the not just to the urban areas, but really to the whole region. And, and in general, you I think DC has been more cautious than most places. Talk a little bit about that, from your point of view, if you would, in particular, what you folks have been doing to work with the city and the other authorities to try to get us back as fast as can safely get on?

Monica Dixon  9:27  
Well, you hit it right on the head. We are. We are one of the last teams to have fans in the arena, which has given us the benefit of looking at best practices around the league and determining how to most safely bring people into the building. And we've also had the opportunity because we've been in discussions for quite a while with the Department of Health in the mayor's office to take their counsel and advice and put that into practice. You know, one of the best examples I can give you is that The Department of Health was concerned about people congregating in the concourses. You know, one of the most favorite things for fans to do is visit with friends during period breaks or during halftime. And so we've had to share with fans that they need to stay in their seats. But they were also very concerned that we have a last call for alcohol during the games, that there would be a rush up and people would be standing in line. So we worked out a way to provide drinks to fans while they're in their seats, so they don't have to go up and stand in line at concessions and still, you know, manage the same cut off time period. And I think it's a good example of how arenas and businesses in general can work with health officials to take their guidance, take their counsel, and get to a place where yes, we have to change our behaviors a little bit. But we can still provide a safe, enjoyable way to attend an event or a game. So we're, we're anxious to be able to grow our 10% of capacity to 25%, we've submitted a waiver to do that. We're hoping that it could, you know, conditions could be improving enough for us to be able to move to that in May, because we're hoping we have playoffs for both the wizards and the caps in May. And it would be great to go up to 25%. But our most important objective from a business standpoint is to be at 100%. This fall, we think it's critical for our 2122 season to be at 100% capacity. You know, for us as a business is this has been a devastating year, we've lost hundreds of millions of dollars. We've had to furlough staff, we've had to lay off staff. It's It's It's heartbreaking for everyone. And I know our story is not much different than many other businesses in the city. But we are anxious to try to build back the core of our business and our fans and bring people into the arena and downtown so that we can support the businesses in our neighborhood.

JB Holston  12:22  
Right? Yeah, the knock on effect of everything being closed to such a degree is something that I know a lot of larger businesses are concerned about both in the short term and the long term. And and I think DC generally has been very conservative at a pace, whether it's schools, reopening venues, like yourselves, guidance to businesses, etc. How the in general are other teams at 25%? Capacity? What's the sort of where are we generally otherwise?

Monica Dixon  12:56  
So we're at 25 of the NBA teams are open for fans, I think the lowest is 10%. And that might only be one or two other teams. Most are at 25%. Some are higher. For hockey, there's only one other city in America that's not open. And that's Chicago, and most of those are above 10%. So we're still on the low side, league wide and, and you know, it's I think it must be very difficult as a player to play at home where it's quiet and then play in, you know, in a way on the road and and have fans. So I know for the wizards last week, it was really exciting to have fans there. And last night, you know, we had a, you know, an overtime Heartbreaker, but there were fans there cheering the whole time. And I and it makes a huge difference for the players to have them there.

JB Holston  13:58  
Yeah, yeah. What can just folks that are listening to this people generally in the world, what can they do to help move this as long as fast as possible?

Monica Dixon  14:09  
Well, I mean, the first thing they can do is get vaccinated as in if they have questions, ask questions, because there are plenty good questions about vaccinations. And there's many great sites that DC provides for people to get their questions answered. And now you're almost available to just walk up and get in line. You don't even need an appointment. And once those vaccination rates get to a high level, that's when the mayor will start to turn everything on at a much higher percentage. Because what we know with the vaccine vaccination rates going up is that our case rates will drop transmissions will drop. And that's those that's the critical lever for businesses to really be turned back on that have events that have live music, and theater, all the things that help bring people into, you know, the heart of our community downtown.

JB Holston  15:09  
Yeah. That's great. Well, that's great guidance. And you're right, I think that the district has been moving rapidly to kind of follow what other places are doing, which is to try to have a lot more to open it up a lot more broadly, in terms of vaccination, but people got to take advantage of that, if we're all going to be able to get back. Exactly, exactly. You mentioned that you folks have lost a few 100 Millions through this just this last year. And I know, I know that spite of that, you've continued to support all kinds of great organizations. And you know, just as one of those thank you for that, of course, but maybe talk a little bit about the attendant effects on other small businesses in the in the area. And then I want to talk a little bit about you, because I think it speaks exactly to your point about the autumn. You know, if we're not fully back by then it isn't just, you know, the fundamentals of the world that are gonna be affected.

Monica Dixon  15:57  
Right, right. Well, unfortunately, when you walk around our arena, right now, instead of seeing people outside having lunch and walking around and going into businesses, you see a lot of closed up businesses, dark buildings, just up here on Seventh Street, if you look out the window that I'm in front of right now, you can't see a business that's open. And, and that is heartbreaking. We are, we provide capital one arena, about $50 million in tax revenues every year. And just the immediate blocks around us with restaurants and retail, and bars provide about $280 million in tax revenue. And right now they're closed. So we're we are not providing that needed revenue for the city to provide the services that are so critical for the community. Here downtown, the downtown bid estimated that there's been a 75% drop in, in people just in our area from December of 19 to December of 20. They recently just put out a great report, that is the state of downtown that I would encourage everyone who cares about the issues that we all care about to go to their website and read. It has all of the economic impacts not only to the businesses, but to our our tourism industry hotels, that convention center and obviously capital and arena as well.

JB Holston  17:35  
Yeah, that's a great, great resource. And we'll make sure as we publicize this afterwards that we connect the link to that as well. We did some survey work with the UI a while back about intentions to return generally in the region. And it was quite interesting, I think. And I think the consensus is kind of merged on this, that the businesses that can be more hybrid will continue to be pretty hybrid, to the point that there are two a third of the businesses may have their folks working only three days a week downtown. So two questions on that one. He is that how you folks are thinking things will look as well? And if so what's what's the impact? Not every business, of course that can afford to do that. But a lot of DC based businesses look like that kind of profile.

Monica Dixon  18:24  
Right? I think you're right. And as I talked to colleagues, and friends who are in the DC region, whether they work for government or business, sorry, my lights are turning off because

JB Holston  18:39  
right motion motion says

Monica Dixon  18:41  
yes, I think we're very focused on environment. So it could be that that's the issue. I'll see if I can get them off. There we go. Alright, so yes, I'll make sure I try to move a little bit now. Yes, so we are like we're an event space business. So you know, we have a couple 100 people who need to be in the building to host games and concerts. So the the core part of our work is going to require people to be in the office. But tena has asked us to take a look at positions that could work in a flexible way, both remotely and in the building. And we think there's there's definitely a handful of those whether it's related to accounting or or marketing or whatever that will allow that flexible engage engagement and right before I was on this call, I was on a call with our IT department because the you know, the implications for each business are to make sure that folks who are working remotely are doing it effectively and and that it's not even more stressful than you know, the the back and forth and that means I have to have the right kind of equipment, the right kind of software and software and cameras and and all of that As businesses have gotten to a place where they are working well, we still, in some cases are stitching things together. And if this is permanent, then we need to make those investments to make sure that everybody can work from home in a in a comfortable way.

JB Holston  20:19  
Yeah, now they should have broadband access for all is one of those things, which, you know, in the world that we're working to, I think that the inequity, if we don't do that, becomes even more, even obviously acute. You know, if we do the if we do if we in a world where a lot of I don't mean to wander around here, but the federal government may be in a different position, they may take a view that folks just have to come to work, even if technically, they could, in theory work from home, but I don't think we know yet. But a lot of other sort of technology oriented screen based work in the downtown region, in theory could be a lot more hybrid. If we, and I know people are worried about commercial real estate, for the long haul, etc. But if we're really how does it affect? You know, the reason right around you, if we're in a world where, you know, a third of the people are only back three days a week? Is it? Is it just a peak versus, you know, non peak issue? Or does it? Is it a fundamental shift that we may not know, yet?

Monica Dixon  21:20  
Yeah, I mean, I look, I think we're gonna learn as we go. And it's hard to predict, as I talked to other business leaders in my region right here, just in these few blocks, many of them fully expect to have their employees back. Others are, are looking at a model, like you just suggested. So I think the the most impact that would have is on the small restaurants and mom and pops that are in this neighborhood that provide amazing service and, and great meals for everyone. And that that is that's that will be hard to take. Because it's such a vibrant, beautiful area. And, you know, what we hope is that there'll be enough business and activity downtown to serve as these great restaurants. But, you know, the other option is to look at real estate in a different way, and maybe transfer its purpose and its use. And so you have a lot of folks downtown, talking about converting businesses to residences, so that more people can live downtown. And that then, is the answer to a lot of those mom and pops and, and then restoring that vibrancy that that's missing right now.

JB Holston  22:36  
Yeah, that's great. Let's talk a little bit about the region and go back to the Olympics, if we can for a second. You mentioned the Olympic bid. And of course, the group that pulled that together, including Ted was very much the group from which the greater Washington partnership was spawned. And I know Ted was an early advocate of this notion of sort of super regions, that there were going to be this kind of collective of urban areas. As the world became more urban, they would end up getting more connected and become economic entities of their own to some degree. And the more we could reduce barriers across those, the better, the faster they would they would grow. Some argue though, that you know, we're in a different world post pandemic, people are going to be living out in the burbs, they're not necessarily going to be working the way that they did that the urban core is not what it was, etc. Do you feel that vision has changed? Or do you think we're, it's just been paused by the pandemic?

Monica Dixon  23:33  
You know, I don't think it's, I don't think it's changed. I think it's just as important as Ted, shared and, and help to create this organization as it ever has been? Yes, transportation, as always going to be an issue. We were joking before we started that, you know, there's still a rush out or when I come downtown, I'm still stuck in traffic, even though less people are coming to the city. So I do think many of the issues that we have to solve as a region are, are still important. And and I think new issues will come to bear, like the importance of having a digital education, but the greater Washington partnership is working on. That's critical if people are going to be working remotely and again, working efficiently remotely. So I don't think it's put any of it on pause. I think it may be that we we have equal focus on on the technology and bringing everyone in the community up to that level of education around technology as transportation.

JB Holston  24:46  
Yeah. I think the opportunity for the region is only more exciting than it was even if the prospective places within the region that see Which kind of growth may shift to some degree because this region uniquely has all the attributes, wherever they may be located that make it just incredibly compelling. But when you I think the whole country obviously knew this well from all of your work, but it's been a real reckoning over the last year on racial justice on social justice, you know, since the murder of George Floyd. And every organization in every organization that's comprised of other organizations has been trying to understand as fast as possible how to how to address it, how to deal with it, talk a little bit about the impact on all of that, for monumental what you folks have been doing?

Monica Dixon  25:38  
Well, you know, our players were real leaders when, when the movement started and and our employees as well. And I think what's happened is that the players by talking about some of their own experiences, our staff by talking and sharing with other members of the staff who come from a pretty wide, wide place of privilege, heard about these struggles in a way that they they just never knew and never understood. And so I think what we experienced as a company, is the leadership of our players and our staff, to create a better understanding and, and then to start to move forward. Our players focused very much on police reform, and talked a lot about that, and also voting and the importance of voting. And so we were excited to be able to offer the Capital One arena as a voting site for Josee residents. Yeah, and, and it was, you know, the the early voting period, so we were open eight days, around election time and our work, many of our employees came in to train as election workers. And that was a great experience, they got to check people in as they were coming in to vote. And, you know, one, our leader on the wizards, Bradley Beal participated in a press conference where he talked about how this was the first time he registered to vote. And it was the first election he was participating in. And I think his personal story was just so important. It spoke to many folks who cares about these issues, but just hadn't ever really engaged that way. And I think it's changed our company. And, and I believe that people who work here feel the same. We were We were lucky that our players also had this great idea of leaving a march from CAP one arena to the MLK Memorial. And that day, watching the players lead a crowd of our staff and fans down in a socially distant way to MLK was was just inspirational. And and I think you'll see pictures of that in this building forever because of the stamp they took. And, and and just their great leadership.

JB Holston  28:11  
Yeah. How those are great stories. And thank you for for sharing those those pictures will be it's great to hear that those pictures will be sort of permanent. I think that's a great a great Hallmark. How do you negotiate all that within the context of the leagues? Because obviously you're you know, you're you've got a team and then you've got the whole league? And because I know Ted tends to get very involved, you guys can't tend to get very involved the league level as well.

Monica Dixon  28:37  
Yes. Ted is he serves on the most important committees on both the NHL and the NBA everything from media to how they think about innovation in the future as well. You know, the NBA has been a great leader on these issues and and they work so closely with the players that I think they in partnership really created the values around the the the last season that you saw black lives matter on the court. They provided great flexibility to both the teams and the players to communicate how they were feeling. And and you see the same in the NHL. All the league spoke about the sentencing their children and and I think it's it's engaged, the leagues to think about and the players to think about how powerful their voices and how many people they can reach to communicate just even if it's just communicate how you feel. Use your voice. We all don't feel the same about a number of issues. Just use your voice be engaged and feel the empowerment of that.

JB Holston  29:58  
Have you ever gotten the caps and the wizards players together to talk about these things.

Monica Dixon  30:02  
And they haven't talked as teams with each other, but they talk among themselves all the time. And each of the teams have leaders who lead on these issues. And what's been interesting is that we have a new committee that formed between the wizards and the mystics, that evaluates opportunities that come and where they should use their voice, and things that they would like to do to engage. And, and I should have mentioned the mistakes earlier. But you know, Natasha, cloud and others have been great leaders have been so engaged on social media, and I think motivated so many women and young women, to again, use their voices, and speak their truth. And, and they've been very powerful in our organization as well.

JB Holston  30:55  
Yeah, that's great. Well, thank you for sharing all that. The mystics have been ahead of the charge in so many ways. It's talk a little bit about inclusive growth and the region's future going forward. You know, as you know, the partnership really has a focus for the foreseeable future on this general frame of inclusive growth. And we really, you know, we've picked both words intentionally. Inclusion with all that implies, of course, around diversity, equity and inclusion, but also growth. And I think the view and the data from McKinsey and others would support it is that if we are the most inclusive region, we'll also be the fastest growing region will attract the most talent will retain the most talent. Inclusion is a new innovation is something that we've been, we've been saying as well. But there are clearly gaps, you know, they're clearly things that in spite of whatever progress we've made over the last year, etc, if you think about some of the gaps in the region, some of the areas where we really got to work to make progress to really be the most equitable region, what comes to mind?

Monica Dixon  32:00  
You know, for me, Ward seven, and Ward eight come to mind. And I know you're not asking a specific geographical question. But unfortunately, in our region, the opportunities just don't exist. For the many hardworking and citizens of Ward seven in Ward eight. You know, we we've been able to be a part of the community because our practice facility is located at in Ward eight at the ESA site at St. Elizabeth's. And what we've seen, and what we've come to understand is that when folks don't even have more than one grocery store, to get fresh food, without having to take multiple buses, to get it, opportunities are just not the same. And and I think that applies also, as we're thinking about these job skills, that people need to be able to work for many of the great companies that belong to the DWP. And so opportunities to grow their digital intelligence and capacity are critical, just like getting fresh food, and having the same kind of opportunities that so many of us who live in Northwest or in Maryland, have just as a part of our ordinary day to day life. And, and it's frustrating, but But part of the reason that Ted moved our company to ward eight is to shine a spotlight on it and to bring resources. And we're already seeing that around ESA, the amount of development that is happening, and the amount of opportunities that are coming. Gives gives us a lot of hope.

JB Holston  34:02  
Yeah, that's great. You know, it's interesting, we talked about clear innovations like that. And of course, eSports, which was just just booming. And, you know, we talk about opportunity, too. And we think about sort of these exciting new frontiers and how distant in many ways opportunity within those frontiers can be from from people in Ward seven and eight, your point that you have to, if you can't find the bus to get to the groceries, the digital certification in a four year higher ed institutions, not something that's that's terribly relevant.

Monica Dixon  34:39  
Exactly. Right. And, you know, there's a there's a deep commitment on behalf of the companies that GWP certainly among monumental to do what we can to support this work. And there are so many great organizations and community groups in Ward seven and eight focused on This, that, I think we we might be at the time where we've, we've we've hit that moment and in part because of the pandemic, as well, that you'll see a focus on this that will provide a leap for for many of the folks who are who live there and would desperately enjoy the kind of work that many of us have in this in this digital world.

JB Holston  35:27  
Right. Yeah, I think that's exactly. I think that's exactly right. Let me Yeah, I think one of the things that we've been talking about is that is how critical it is that by the autumn, at the latest, everything be as fully open as possible. And there really is, there's no, there's nothing that suggests that that's not achievable, when schools are going to need to be part of the mix. One of the things that a lot of our employers have said is, look, even if everything else is open, and we're safe. If the schools aren't open, then you know, we're, we're stuck. So I think all of your point about vaccinations is a good one. The faster everyone gets vaccinated, the more the mayor and the Head of Public Health will feel like opening all of this at pace is a good thing to do on vaccinations, the question of passports. We do those for kids in schools for immunizations, you know, travel abroad, you've got your yellow card, it's not really a foreign thing, but it's become really politicized. How are how are you folks thinking about sort of vaccines certification, or any of that relative to the soap in your own facilities?

Monica Dixon  36:32  
Well, it's, um, it is, it is something we talk about every day. And it's in part because we have seen a couple of our peers, particularly in New York, that are providing vaccinated advanced sections for their games. And either a you, you may only come into their arenas, if you've tested negative for COVID, in the last 48 or 72 hours, or if you can prove your vaccination status. And so I think what the industry has been rushing to get to, is a technology that allows for that passport to become accessible and clear. And for us we've been working with, and talking with clear, because they are close to being able to provide that just like show your phone just like you do at the airport. And, and, and then you'll you'll have status for vaccinations. For us, it could be the difference between having pods of seating six feet apart, and maybe a seat apart, which is the difference between being Hafele and 10%. Fall. So we're hoping that this technology comes online, so that it is something that a fan could use to either purchase a ticket or or enter a building. And we're very, very close. And I think that that could be transformative, I think it's I think it would provide a lot of security to a fan who might be a little hesitant about coming to a big event to know that they are going to be seated with other people who are vaccinated.

JB Holston  38:16  
Well, I think it's amazing how fast universities around the country have said that they're going to acquire vaccinations, which of course implies proof of vaccination for students, faculty staff to re enter by the fall. So I think we're gonna see more and more institutions or structures of institutions have it as a requirement. Anyhow. So the more we've got sort of a ubiquitous easy to access method for folks to, to access. But let's talk a little bit about how would it actually work? Let me think about the clear, you know, kind of a construct. I'm a fan, I mentioned buying a ticket, maybe when I show up, what would that actually be like, you know,

Monica Dixon  38:53  
it's as simple as a, like a QR code, you're just gonna, like, it'll scan just when we go through that, and here's my life. It'll scan just like just like, like your ticket QR code. So that's at least my understanding of it. And and I think the biggest issue right now is that you have all these states and and also pharmacies who have proof of vaccination and, and so that is the mechanism that has to be completed in order for this really work. Not that I think people are gonna scam their vaccination card, but I think you want as a business, if you're telling people that they're in a vaccinated section to know that that's actually the case and there aren't people with, you know, that created their own vaccination card. I think that's just an important thing that all of us wouldn't want to do if we're asserting that it's a vaccinated section.

JB Holston  39:55  
Yep. I agree with that. You are seeing a lot more employers publicly say they're gonna ask For proof of vaccination require vaccination for employees to come back. So I suspect this is it's just one of those things we're all having to adjust to.

Monica Dixon  40:12  
And you, you said something really important earlier to, which is that the schools have to be back in the fall for workers to come back in the fall for all of us to be able to come into the office, those of us who have kids, so that's critical and, and having a way to be sure that people are vaccinated, just like we do in schools for other vaccines is critical to give to give all of our employees that sort of peace of mind that they can come into the office and, and know that their kids are learning and keeping up.

JB Holston  40:45  
Yeah, no, no question. It's, the data is fairly clear that the longer that continues, the worse it is, particularly for more disadvantaged.

Monica Dixon  40:55  
Exactly for the people we're talking about in Ward seven and eight, whose children are falling behind at a higher rate than kids that live in a more, you know, Northwest DC, where there is more privilege and more opportunity.

JB Holston  41:11  
Yeah. And you talked about communication that's been so critical on that frontier, because many of the parents of a lot of those kids or parents or whatever, maybe have been more skeptical about things like vaccines, or, or, of course, I've had more issue getting access. And so it just it compounds, the issues. And so that recovery is going to be so dependent on the pace at which we're able to close that last mile.

Monica Dixon  41:35  
Exactly, exactly. Right.

JB Holston  41:38  
I just want to talk about two other quick things. And then thank you again for the time, Monica, one of which will probably not be quick, but sports betting and eSports booming, generally, for people who aren't, you know, maybe they're old school, right, they don't do either of those, but talk a little bit about why they're taking off to such a bit and and how you folks are thinking about them relative to your work?

Monica Dixon  41:59  
Well, you know, attended, started thinking about a sports betting as the Supreme Court was just considering it and, and thinking about how it would engage fans in a way that they hadn't had the opportunity before. You know, he he had the vision that people could come into cap, one arena, watch a game have on their phone, various different odds and ways to engage in the game, you know, whether a free throw was going to be made, or who was going to make the first shot. And while we're a little ways away from that, from a technological standpoint, right at this moment, it creates a higher level of engagement. And so we're really excited, we entered into a partnership with William Hill, they are about to open a sports book here in the arena. And so fans will be able to come into the game walk into the sports back book that if they want, they can bet from the app in their seats. And so we're really excited about that, because we think it drives engagement and, and drives interest. In terms of eSports. You know, one of the most interesting things is when I worked on the Olympic bid, with with, with all of these sports leaders, what we were learning about eSports at the time, was that more people are watching eSports in the month of August than watch the Olympics in our last Olympics. And it was one of these moments when Ted said, you know, this is where we were sports is moving. And he has been critical in the leaks and in our company to be thinking about it. And to have experts who understand it. He invested in a company called axiomatic which owns Team Liquid. And so we've had the opportunity to work with Team Liquid and learn a great deal about eSports. And admittedly my son knows a lot more than I do. But the I mean, we just never seen numbers like this. This is where the world is. And it's where kids are, they would much rather watch a fortnight game then probably would watch the game tonight that I'll be watching. So we want to be able to reach everybody and all of the fans of sport and and we think there's a great opportunity here to to grow the Washington region and its love for Esports the way it loves it wizards and camps and mystics.

JB Holston  44:41  
Yeah, that's great. Well, that's helpful context. I know. You know, my previous life as a dean of engineering computer science. We were shocked two years ago when the largest team that formed from the students was eSports out of nowhere. I mean, literally, this was not you know, sanctioned student government led anything it was just Where did all these people come from? Because they We're all in my building, because we have a science school as well. And we had a lot of great places where they could play. So it was eye opening to your point. Yeah. Last question, Mark. And thank you again, so much for the time and for all the fundamentals done and is doing for not just the downtown area, obviously in DC, but for the region, as well. But what's your biggest takeaway about leadership from your experience of the last year?

Monica Dixon  45:27  
You know, I think for me, it's the inspiration of watching the players find their voices, on issues related to social justice, watching Natasha and Brad lead through the murder of George Floyd and how the community came around. It was just, it was inspirational. And I think the message to everyone having lived through this last year is it may have felt exhausting at times to to use your voice, because it sometimes creates conflict. But it makes us better and it educates us about one another. And so, you know, my lesson is, is, is keep using your voice, keep listening to other people using your voice, because you'll grow and it will make you better it will make your company better if you're listening. And so it's that combination that I think we went through last year that made us all stronger and more resilient. And, and I think it's a good lesson to keep with us as we recover from the pandemic and get back to normal.

JB Holston  46:44  
Yeah, I think it's great. I look we're we're more sustainable society, the more resilient we've become. And the more we communicate, there's no question. Monica, thank you for the time. My guest has been Monica Dixon, President External Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer at monumental sports. Thank you, and we'll talk again soon. Thanks so much. Thanks, Jamie.

Nina Sharma  47:10  
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson Turner, Christian Rodriguez and Nina Sharma. If you liked what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications, visit Greater Washington