Although D.C. United remains optimistic about reaching an agreement to build a stadium at Buzzard Point in Washington, the MLS club has taken renewed interest in Maryland, sources close to the situation told the Insider.
United executives are “going to play it out with D.C. first, but patience is thinner than it was six months ago,” said one person, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
United will not, however, reconsider Baltimore, which, in association with the Maryland Stadium Authority, had been seeking to attract the MLS club in recent years. United ruled out Baltimore this past winter.
United is looking at two Maryland sites in the Washington area, said a source, who declined to specify the locations or say how close they are to the city. The club already rejected one other suggestion: near Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County.
Jason Levien, United’s managing partner, said he could not go into detail about the stadium effort or whether Maryland was back in play.
He did say, however, that “we feel as though we are moving in the right direction [with D.C. city officials] and the commitment is there on the part of the city’s leadership to bring this to resolution.
“There is a very good communication flow and a real willingness to work together in a collaborative way to make something happen. We are in frequent, if not constant, communication with them about how we move forward and come to some resolution on outstanding issues.”
Levien and associates are in weekly contact with city officials about forging a deal to build a facility at Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C., an undeveloped parcel near Nationals Park and the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.
Councilmember Tommy Wells was Levien’s guest at United’s match Saturday night. Wells represents Ward 6, which encompasses Buzzard Point. United officials have also forged a “good relationship” with Mayor Vincent C. Gray, those close to the talks said.
After years of disappointments, the prospects for a new stadium improved last summer, when Levien and wealthy Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir joined San Francisco-based Will Chang in the organization’s investment group. Levien, who is also chief executive of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, lives in Washington and is spearheading United’s stadium campaign.
United has been seeking a replacement for RFK Stadium, an outdated facility that is too large for the club’s purposes and, team officials say, does not provide proper revenue streams to sustain the business for the long term.
United has pledged to pay all costs of the new stadium, which would accommodate at least 20,000 spectators and also host college sports, non-MLS soccer events and concerts. The team has asked the city to pay for land acquisition and infrastructure costs. PEPCO, the utility company, and Akridge, a prominent developer, are the primary land owners in the area where United wants to build.
Addressing a timetable to reach a deal with the city, Levien said: “We prefer it to be today, but while we are cautiously optimistic about it, we are also realistic and know these things take time and we want it to be well thought-out, well planned and executed properly.”
One person familiar with the talks said United would like to see the city make “tangible progress” this summer and complete land acquisitions by the end of the year.
The club “wants to be in D.C. but is taking [Maryland’s proposals] seriously and is listening,” the source said.