A Stadium Plan That Will Pay Off

Sunday, June 8, 2008

We disagree with those, such as columnist Marc Fisher, who say that the District should not pay for a soccer stadium and should not use riverfront parkland as the site ["A Stadium Plan That Won't Pay Off," Metro, May 31]. Ward 8 and the Washington region need this soccer stadium to enhance an underdeveloped area and to create another beautiful gateway into the city.

A soccer stadium and its related mixed-use commercial development would create an economic engine in a section of the District that desperately needs it. Many residents east of the Anacostia River have long bemoaned the lack of development and upscale amenities there. This need for sustainable development and a landmark attraction near an entrance to the city justify the use of parkland and public funds. Just as the baseball and football stadiums in Baltimore represent powerful introductions to that city, so would the soccer stadium, combined with Nationals Park just across the river, announce our nation's capital from a revitalized southeastern entrance. A riverfront that is dominated by military installations, a soccer stadium and commercial development would encourage sustainable development in a depressed area.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council members Marion Barry, Jack Evans and Vincent C. Gray are right to support this project. In addition to providing economic and aesthetic benefits, transferring Poplar Point, which is national parkland, to the District for private development would also lead to the environmental reclamation of a toxic waste site.

The Anacostia has been listed by American Rivers, a national environmental group, as one of the most polluted rivers in the country. We could also dream that this soccer stadium and commercial project could motivate Congress to separate the combined sewer overflow pipe system in Washington, retrofit the sewage treatment plant to treat stormwater and sanitary sewage separately, and cover the facility, as is done at the North River Sewage Treatment Plant in New York's Harlem section.

Some environmentalists oppose the stadium plan. But these opponents should rethink their decision to block sustainable development in a section of the city where they absolutely will not live. Critics say that the soccer stadium will not stimulate economic development and that development will ruin the pristine nature of the area. Ward 8 is 91 percent African American. Perhaps these critics who will not live east of the river should spend their time promoting a tunnel for Interstate 295 along the riverfront so that locals can have easy access to the park area, soccer stadium and environmentally friendly mixed-use retail shops. Maybe environmentally friendly, transit-oriented development could then flourish at the Anacostia Metro station.

Washington and Ward 8 need this stadium. I applaud city leaders for supporting this project.

-- Norris McDonald

Fort Washington

The writer is president of the African American Environmentalist Association.

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