Soccer Stadium by 2009? City and D.C. United Differ

A stadium is planned for Poplar Point, but the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. has yet to hire a master planner to create a redevelopment plan for the area.
A stadium is planned for Poplar Point, but the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. has yet to hire a master planner to create a redevelopment plan for the area. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By David Nakamura and Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 22, 2006

D.C. United officials remain hopeful that a 27,000-seat soccer stadium can be built at Poplar Point along the Anacostia River by 2009, but District officials say significant challenges remain that could delay the project.

Although city planners have not ruled out opening a stadium in 2009, they said the project is behind schedule because of complications related to the transfer of 100 acres of federal land -- which includes the stadium site -- to the city.

Once the District gets title to the land, it must pay to clear the site of contamination and to relocate National Park Service facilities, officials said.

Even then, the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., which has been designated by the city to oversee development along the river, has said it will hire a master developer to create an integrated plan with housing and office and retail space before moving forward with a soccer stadium.

"It's challenging," said Stephen Goldsmith, the corporation's chairman. "The soccer guys think they can move quickly, but we're not where they expect us to be today."

For the past 2 1/2 years, as District leaders have been focused on the political fight to finance and build a baseball stadium near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street SE, the soccer stadium project has taken a back seat.

But with the Washington Nationals set to move out of 45-year-old Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium by April 2008, the soccer project has taken on increasing urgency. The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission is trying to figure out RFK's future and hopes that United will find a new home.

"If a new soccer stadium is not ready for '09, we can keep RFK open for that year," said Mark H. Tuohey, the commission's chairman. "If you're talking an additional two years, we'd have to look carefully at that."

District leaders view Poplar Point, in Ward 8 across the Anacostia River from the baseball stadium site, as a critical plot whose development will help revitalize the long-neglected riverfront, just as the ballpark is expected to do on the Ward 6 side.

Officials consider the area, with sweeping river views, ideal for housing development. But so far, the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. has not settled on what else to build at Poplar Point.

This month, the corporation unveiled two plans. Both showed office, retail and residential development clustered in three areas: near Good Hope Road SE to the east, W Street SE in the middle and Howard Road SE farther west. One of the plans included a soccer stadium, showing the field in place of the development near W Street, with a 4,000-space parking garage and a 500-room conference center and hotel.

Unlike the baseball stadium, which is being funded with $611 million in public money, the city has not pledged any funding for the soccer stadium, which is projected to cost roughly $150 million.

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