D.C. United goes on offensive in stadium debate

February 28

United player Chris Pontius (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

D.C. United launched a new Web site Thursday night aimed at building support for the team’s plan to build a Major League Soccer stadium on Buzzard Point, in Southwest D.C.

The site – unitedc.org – encourages visitors to write an e-mail to Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and members of the D.C. Council asking that they support Gray’s plan to acquire and provide the needed land and infrastructure for the 20,000-seat stadium and ancillary development around it. The team would then pay for construction of the stadium itself, expected to cost around $150 million.

Here’s a sample letter from the site, based on a user typing in an address in Ward 4, represented by Council member Muriel Bowser (D):

I am a District resident writing to ask you to support the D.C. United stadium plan at Buzzard Point.

The current proposal is good for the District. It’s an economic development plan that creates jobs and provides redevelopment benefits in multiple wards across the city. The plan also will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to support District priorities such as education, affordable housing and public safety.

D.C. United is paying the full $150 million for construction of the stadium using private funds. The District will own the land. The project will result in no new taxes on District residents and no new debt incurred by the City. The plan will create 870 jobs during construction and 550 permanent jobs.

The facility will serve the entire community with many other uses besides professional soccer. It will be utilized for youth events, school-age sports, college football, lacrosse, soccer and more, as well as concerts and other cultural events.

Just as the Verizon Center transformed the Gallery Place neighborhood, the new stadium will further establish the Anacostia waterfront as a recognized commercial and cultural destination.

This is an unmatched opportunity for District residents and a project worthy of our great capital city. I hope you will lend your support to this plan.

United’s campaign comes during ongoing negotiations and debate over Gray’s stadium plan. A month ago a Washington Post poll found that six in 10 D.C. residents oppose Gray’s plan to support the project and Allen Lew, the city’s chief administrator, has been unable to meet a series of self-imposed deadlines he’d set for acquiring the land and submitting a legislative proposal to the D.C. Council.

The team launched the site in the midst of a feverish campaign between Gray and four members of the council to win the Democratic primary for mayor. Gray’s stadium plan has become a campaign issue, with Bowser, chair of the council’s committee on economic development, recently saying she was not interested in trading the Reeves Center, on U Street, to acquire the needed land.

Unitedc.org quotes a number of team and city officials voicing support for the stadium plan or the team, including Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8).

Craig Stouffer, a United spokesman, said the team felt it was a good time to create the site in part because of the “feeling there are some positive vibes coming from the negotiations.”

“People want to hear the facts abut the deal because there is so much that is good about it, in terms of economic development and tax revenue for the city,” he said.

Stouffer said United had discussed starting Unitedc.org earlier but that the team wanted to be respectful of the mayor’s efforts to put the deal together. He said the team funded the site with other partners but declined to name them.

“I think it has to do with being fair to the process and not trying to get ahead of the negotiations. People have been clamoring for the team to do it for a long time,” he said.

Staff reporter Steven Goff contributed.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

 

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