Who Will Build Soccer Stadium? Game On!

By David Nakamura and V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 5, 2008

Prince George's County has not been coy about expressing its interest in wooing D.C. United if the soccer team and D.C. leaders do not come to terms on a new stadium. Now, some county officials say their aggressive courting might have been what sparked a coalition of D.C. Council members to begin developing legislation for a public financing package for the proposed stadium at Poplar Point.

According to an account provided by Washington Post reporter Rosalind S. Helderman, development firm Petrie Ross featured a model of a soccer stadium as part of its presentation for a town center at the Greenbelt Metro station in Prince George's. The firm made the presentation at the International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas three weeks ago.

That annual conference is the mecca for retailers and city and county officials interested in wooing them. The District's delegation included Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and K wame Brown (D-At Large). Also there was United's Victor B. MacFarlane, a major financier from San Francisco who hosted a party, and officials from Prince George's.

Prince George's Deputy Chief Administrative Officer David Byrd told Helderman that District officials saw Petrie's model, and that spurred them to move forward with efforts to keep the team in D.C.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that this happened right after they got back from ISCS," he said. "It's a fact that they saw it."

Byrd said Prince George's officials continue to stress "what a good product" the county could offer. "We always knew [the District] was their preferred location," he said. "But we still feel good about where we are."

Petrie Ross is developing a mixed-use retail, office and residential center on 78 acres at the Greenbelt Station. Pam Rau, a spokeswoman for Petrie Ross, referred questions about a soccer stadium at the development to D.C. United.

Meanwhile, the Maryland Stadium Authority is conducting a feasibility study. Project executive Gary A. McGuigan said consultants are working numbers now and anticipate reporting back late this month or in early July.

D.C. officials scoffed privately at the suggestion that the Petrie Ross presentation was a catalyst for them. They said Prince George's County will have an even more difficult time finding public money -- and support -- for the project than the District.

Rhee's Thank-You Letter

In recent months, the Notebook has heard from many D.C. teachers who have felt unappreciated by Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. They have cited Rhee's buyout program -- her attempt to get rid of up to 700 teachers at about 50 schools slated for closure or reorganization -- as well as her proposal at the bargaining table to eliminate seniority.

But apparently Rhee has great admiration for teachers. Last week, anticipating the wrapping up of the school year for teachers June 13, she sent a letter thanking them for their service this year and wishing them a happy summer.

She even referred to her own experience as a young elementary teacher in Baltimore in the early 1990s to identify with the weariness they likely feel at the end of a busy school year. A teacher passed on a copy of the letter. Here is an excerpt:

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