Barry Opposes Soccer Stadium Plan

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 5, 2005

D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said yesterday that he is "absolutely, unequivocally" opposed to a plan to build a soccer stadium at Poplar Point, on the east side of the Anacostia River.

Barry said the riverfront land, which is to be transferred to the city by the federal government, is too valuable to be used for a stadium that would be empty most of the time.

"The soccer stadium is misdirected," said Barry, whose ward includes the proposed stadium site. "This is an ideal spot for housing, entertainment and shopping -- and maybe some office buildings. It would be great to have housing overlooking the river. And that's what I'm going to push the mayor on doing."

A spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said the mayor is generally supportive of having a soccer stadium at the site, although nothing has been finalized.

Barry's opposition could be a hurdle for the new owners of D.C. United, who want to build a medium-sized stadium near the Frederick Douglass Bridge. Billionaire Phil Anschutz recently sold the club's operating rights to locally based Global Sports and Entertainment for $26 million.

The stadium would be part of a mixed-use development on public and private land. Most of the financing would come from private sources, officials said, but details have not been made public.

D.C. United currently shares Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium with the Washington Nationals -- an arrangement that at times has tested both teams' patience as they pursue plans for new facilities.

Barry said he has been contacted by developers eager to build on the site, which is near the Anacostia Metro station. He declined to identify them, saying any deal would have to be awarded in a competitive manner.

"This is valuable land we have," he said. "We ought to be very careful how we use this land."

Other community leaders, including members of the local advisory neighborhood commission, expressed support for building the stadium on the riverfront.

"We would welcome a soccer field. And we're not going to fight like what they are doing over there where they want to build the ballfield," said commission member R. Calvin Lockridge, referring to local opposition to building a baseball stadium for the Nationals across the river.

"It would enhance the area, and everybody is feeling that, with the rail line coming, it would enhance the situation," Lockridge said, referring to a proposed light rail line along the Anacostia waterfront. "We are excited about it."

James Bunn, a member of the Ward 8 Business Council, said a soccer stadium could be one element in a mix of new attractions on the waterfront.

"I don't think it's a bad idea," Bunn said. "The community is changing, and we need a blend of things that meet different needs.''

Last month, President Bush asked Congress to give the city control of 110 acres of federal parkland on the east side of the river, making way for housing, a major museum or memorial and a waterfront park.

Williams's Anacostia Waterfront Initiative includes a host of other amenities along both sides of the eight-mile waterfront: shops and cultural attractions, redesigned roads and bridges and a river-walk trail.

On Wednesday, Williams suggested that the Metro system sell its valuable downtown headquarters site and build an office complex on vacant land at the Anacostia Station, which would bring additional jobs and spending to the area.


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