Texas firm will study soccer deal for D.C. Council


This artist rendering provided by the District of Columbia shows the proposed $300 million soccer stadium. The city and the team would split the cost of the stadium tentatively scheduled to open in 2016 in the Buzzard Point section of Southwest Washington, less than a mile from Nationals Park, upper right. (AP Photo/District of Columbia)

Updated 6:30 p.m. with details on CSL’s partners

The D.C. Council has selected a Plano, Tex., firm to conduct a financial analysis of the proposed D.C. United soccer stadium deal in coming weeks, setting the stage for a fall debate over the $300 million proposal.

Conventions, Sports & Leisure International won a contract worth up to $200,000, beating out three other bidders, the council announced Monday. The firm is required to deliver a “independent economic evaluation” of the real estate transactions proposed in the soccer deal — including the trade of the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center for stadium land owned by developer Akridge — no later than Sept. 12.

CSL International bills itself as a “leading advisory and planning firm specializing in providing consulting services to the convention, sport, entertainment and visitor industries,” with expertise in conducting economic impact and other financial analyses. On its Web site, the firm lists having worked on more than 20 existing or proposed soccer stadiums — including, as it happens, a proposed D.C. United stadium.

The firm says on its site that it prepared that study for the pro-stadium Greater Washington Sports Alliance of a facility to have been constructed on Poplar Point — a parcel across the Anacostia River from the Buzzard Point site where the stadium would be built under the present proposal. But the Washington Post reported in 2012 that CSL International had in fact studied a Buzzard Point proposal that looked much like the one now under consideration, concluding that a stadium there would cost $157 million, not including land. That figure jibes with the current proposal, which entails the team playing for a roughly $150 million stadium while the city pays about the same amount to assemble and prepare the land.

CSL International has also done studies on behalf of the Washington Convention Center Authority, now known as Events D.C., on how to evaluate and improve the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The firm was chosen for the stadium contract by Council Secretary Nyasha Smith with the input of a technical panel chaired by former Zoning Commission chair and city real estate director Carol J. Mitten — who is also the domestic partner of Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), a connection that raised a few eyebrows earlier this month.

The raised-eyebrow factor might be further aggravated by the fact, first tweeted by WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood and confirmed by Smith, that CSL International is partnering with The Robert Bobb Group on the contract — the firm of the former D.C. city administrator and Board of Education president who had toyed with a mayoral run in recent years. Also on the team is Integra Realty Resources, a national firm specializing in commercial real estate valuations.

Meanwhile, the council’s Economic Development Committee is holding two hearings this week in neighborhoods affected by the stadium proposal. Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), the chairwoman of the committee, and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), the area’s representative, are set to tour Buzzard Point and its environs Tuesday afternoon ahead of the hearings as she begins to “focus on unanswered questions from the community about the deal,” according to a statement from her office.

Mendelson has said he expects the council to take up the soccer deal sometime after members return from summer recess in late September.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · July 22