The D.C. Council has begun discussions regarding a new United soccer stadium, and while there appears to be enthusiasm for the Buzzard Point project, there are some questions about the deal’s structure.
It’s safe to say that by and large the Council wants to see a new privately financed stadium in a generally underused part of the district off the Anacostia River in the Buzzard Point area, near Nationals Park. As the Council debated the issue on a day when the U.S.-German World Cup match was vying for attention (apparently most of the folks signed up to provide testimony bailed so they could watch the match; they were later joined by the mayor and many council members), some core issues emerged: whether the land swaps that would enable the stadium are in the best interest of District residents. From the Washington Post:
Over the past 18 months, Gray’s city administrator, Allen Lew, negotiated deals in which the District would provide the needed land and infrastructure for construction of a Major League Soccer stadium on Buzzard Point, the sale of the Reeves Center municipal building on 14th Street NW and the possible construction of a new District office building in Anacostia.
Lew laid the details out for the first time in public, acknowledging the complexity of the proposal but saying it would not only keep United in the city but also create jobs, bring economic development to three neighborhoods and bring new tax revenue.
He pointed out that previous mayors have used land swaps to accomplish major economic development projects, such as the Marriott Marquis convention center hotel.
Lew acknowledged that “the idea of a land swap has raised concerns,” but said it would provide the city the cash and certainty to complete the deal without having to find the money in its budget or take on more debt, which could violate a cap on city borrowing.
A new United stadium has been a goal of team ownership for more than a decade. The MLS team has played in aging RFK Stadium, and while that venue — the first true multipurpose stadium — is certainly unique, it’s not the best place to watch a match.