Talks Fall Apart On Stadium for D.C. Soccer Team
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Negotiations to build a soccer stadium for D.C. United in Southeast Washington have collapsed, leading District officials to pursue other options for the site and team officials to threaten to move the franchise out of the city, government sources said yesterday.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration had been negotiating for months with D.C. United's principal investor, real estate magnate Victor A. MacFarlane, over the team's proposal to build a 27,000-seat stadium in Ward 8, just across the Anacostia River from the Washington Nationals' new ballpark.
But the negotiations stalled over the financial terms. Although United offered to pay for the $150 million stadium, it asked for about $200 million in city subsidies, including roads, tax incentives and the right to develop additional land, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were private.
Administration officials have decided to look at other options for the site, which is part of a 110-acre piece of federal land known as Poplar Point that is scheduled to be transferred to the District in the fall. The city will seek proposals from interested developers over the next two months, the sources said, with the focus on housing and retail. A soccer stadium still could be part of the mix but is not a top priority, the sources said.
Verizon Center, the downtown indoor sports arena, has been credited with playing a key role in the revitalization of its neighborhood; the economic impact of soccer stadiums appears less understood. D.C. United's attendance has averaged about 17,000 a game over the years.
During the negotiations, D.C. United officials suggested they would consider moving to Maryland or Virginia, possibly the Baltimore or Loudoun County areas, if the District was unable to help build a new stadium, the sources said. United plays at 46-year-old RFK Stadium and had hoped to have a new facility by 2009 or 2010.
"We're keeping our options open," said Julie Chase, a spokeswoman for MacFarlane. "We need a new stadium somewhere in the D.C. area. I can't put parameters on that."
Fenty's spokeswoman, Carrie Brooks, said in a statement last night: "Poplar Point represents a once in a lifetime development opportunity for the District of Columbia. A competitive process for the disposition of this land could provide the District with great ideas on how best to meet city objectives that include workforce development, affordable housing, great parkland, and sustainable development."
D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who championed the publicly funded $611 million baseball stadium, said of United: "It would be very unfortunate if they left the city. The stadium was a good idea, but the question was always who would pay for it. . . . I can understand their frustration, because they were led to believe the city very much was trying to make this happen."
Evans said another option that had been discussed is construction of a soccer stadium next to RFK, which would then be torn down.
Administration officials consider Poplar Point to be a unique development opportunity: a massive waterfront property in the city's poorest ward. But deciding what to do with the land has been the subject of much discussion.
Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) has supported the stadium, but residents have been divided. Some agreed that the stadium would help bring new investors and opportunity; others voiced concern that it would not include affordable housing and jobs for residents.