D.C. United stadium moves forward

DC UnitedA funding plan for a D.C. United stadium moves forward, as the $300-million project would be the most expensive ever built by an MLS franchise.

Two D.C. Council committees have approved a deal proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray. This was in the wake of the release of a 400 page report, commissioned by the D.C. Council, detailing the financial benefits of the plan. Local construction and building trade groups, as well as other community leaders, have all issued statements urging passage.

The stadium is expected to cost $287 million, 46 percent of which would come from the city, with the remainder covered by the club, who in turn receive a $50 million dollar tax break. Although the expensive urban real estate drives up the initial cost, the report concluded that the net economic benefit to the city would be $109 million over the course of the team’s lease.

The stadium’s financing and location has been the subject of controversy, and a slough of proposed sites, over the years. As early as 2005, the team announced plans to build a stadium at Poplar Point, but that deal eventually collapsed amid government wrangling. In 2008-2009, several suburban locations were considered (Prince George and Montgomery counties in Maryland, Loudoun County in Virginia), and even Baltimore’s government studied building a stadium to lure the team away from the District of Columbia.

Finally, in 2011, the current location of Buzzard Point, in a centrally located, but underused, section of central D.C., near the National Defense University and the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, was settled on as the best option for the stadium.

Buzzard Point has an interesting role in American history. George Washington first suggested development on the site, seeing the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers as a logical tactical location for military use. As a result, a fortification was placed on the site as early as 1791. Later, during the Civil War, the site became known as the Washington Arsenal, and many weapons were developed and tested there, including the Gatling gun.

Buzzard Point is seen as a strong location for the new stadium – the stadium would be adjacent to Nationals Park, and would develop an area that is currently only surface parking lots. Though some argue that the public transportation links via the city’s Metro are a bit far from the stadium site, others have suggested the use of water taxis, and early rendering have envisioned the possibility of a streetcar line serving the stadium.

The stadium plan has a few hurdles remaining before being a done deal, but it seems close. D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans said in a statement last Thursday, “This stadium is important to the vibrancy of our city and the success of our hometown soccer team, DC United. I was proud to pass the legislation today and hope that my colleagues will work to get this legislation passed before the end of the year.” The club is hopeful that, with swift passage, they could be playing in their new stadium as soon as 2017.

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August Publications