Study: $157M for soccer stadium


D.C. United fans cheer before the start of a soccer match last month against Toronto F.C. at RFK Stadium in the District. The team drew an average attendance of 14,279 in 2010, down from 20,967 in 2007. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

A new stadium for D.C. United would cost at least $157 million to build, but could generate $5.5 million to $7.3 million a year in tax revenue for the District, according to a draft study commissioned by the Greater Washington Sports Alliance.

The study envisions a 24,000-seat stadium — with 50 suites, 240 loge seats and 1,200 club seats — on Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington. It would hold 17 league matches a year for United as well 25 to 37 other events, including international and college soccer matches, concerts and community events.

Construction of the project, the report claims, would create 290 jobs for District residents, $19.5 million in wages and about $38 million in local spending. Once completed, the stadium would support 600 to 810 part- or full-time jobs permanently.

The 35-page report, obtained by Capital Business, was compiled by Convention, Sports & Leisure International, a Minneapolis consultant that has studied sports and convention developments nationwide, including for Camden Yards, the Verizon Center and the Marriott Marquis convention center hotel, currently under construction.

Robert T. Sweeney, president of the nonprofit sports commission, declined to comment on the study specifically, but said that the team’s effort to build a stadium was “further along than it ever has been in the past.”

“Things are happening in the right places at the right levels behind the scenes,” he said.

The study builds the case for the team to make the District its permanent home, according to William N. Hall, a partner at Venable who helped return Major League Baseball to the District. “From my standpoint, it demonstrates that soccer in D.C., in a new stadium, would generate tremendous benefits for the city and is very worthy of pursuit,” Hall said of the findings.

D.C. United is currently exploring its options. The Maryland Stadium Authority, for instance, is studying the feasibility of building a stadium in south Baltimore.

According to the D.C. study, the stadium could be built as part of an $82 million mixed-use development on Buzzard Point that would include a 2,000- to 2,500-capacity music venue, 100,000 square feet of retail, 30,000 square feet of offices and 100 apartments.

The $157 million price tag includes labor, materials, design, engineering and other professional fees but may not includes the cost of acquiring land. Akridge, which owns most of the land on Buzzard Point, and Clark Construction contributed to cost estimates.

Both Sweeney and United spokesman Doug Hicks declined to discuss specifics of the study because it has not yet been released to the public. “This is a study commissioned by the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, and it’s a part of the process of determining the benefits of a stadium in the District,” Hicks said.

United owner Will Chang has been in discussions with other investors, reportedly including Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir. The club had the best record in the Eastern Conference as of last week, but the team drew an average of 20,967 fans in 2007 and only 14,279 in 2010. CSL projects average attendance of 18,000 to 22,000 fans for United games in a new stadium — what would amount to as much as a 54 percent increase in attendance over 2010.

Years after the D.C. government agreed to finance a ballpark for the Washington Nationals — a deal that bitterly divided voters — Sweeney said stadium backers recognized that times had changed.

“What people weren’t interested in is a bad deal for the citizens. Baseball ended up being a bad deal, and I don’t think anyone wants to see that again,” he said.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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