Md. Comes Courting in D.C. United's Stadium Search
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
A leading Maryland official began a public push yesterday to lure D.C. United, calling on the state to find a site for a new soccer stadium. The announcement prompted District government leaders to say they will fight to keep the team in the city.
In a letter to Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman Frederick W. Puddester, Comptroller Peter Franchot said United's negotiations with D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to build a 27,000-seat stadium in the city have stalled.
"I would strongly urge the Maryland Stadium Authority to meet with representatives from the United to learn more about its proposal and explore potential opportunities to bring this great franchise to the State of Maryland," Franchot wrote.
He said a stadium "would attract fans and tourists from throughout the region. . . . The enormous tax revenues generated on game nights alone would provide an enormous benefit."
The letter comes less than a week after United principal partner Victor B. MacFarlane said he has hired consultants to examine potential stadium sites in Maryland and Virginia. Franchot met with MacFarlane and United President Kevin Payne yesterday afternoon to reiterate his interest.
But several D.C. Council members, including Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), also met with United officials yesterday and pledged to work with the franchise to find a new home in the District.
"That puts us all on notice that they are seriously looking," Gray said of Franchot's letter. "We had to know that was going to happen with the situation they are in."
United officials had been informally negotiating for months with the Fenty administration to build a stadium and mixed-use development at Poplar Point, a 110-acre strip of parkland along the Anacostia River. But the mayor broke off talks during the summer and opened a competitive bidding process to solicit other proposals for the site.
MacFarlane, who bought the team with a partner in January, said last week that it is increasingly unlikely that he will be able to enter the competition because United cannot meet the economic parameters set by the city.
Julie Chase, MacFarlane's spokeswoman, played down the impact of Franchot's letter.
"We're happy to have the support," she said. "But we're a ways down the road" from a plan to move.
Still, Franchot's interest privately rekindled talk among some Maryland officials of United's interest four years ago in two locations in College Park.