Study Cites Benefits of Soccer Stadium, but Some Doubts Raised

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A professional soccer stadium in Prince George's County could draw up to 840,000 attendees annually, employ more than 1,300 workers and bring in as much as $6 million in state and county taxes each year, according to a feasibility study released yesterday by state officials.

The Maryland Stadium Authority commissioned the study after County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) asked for an analysis of the potential economic impact of relocating D.C. United to Prince George's.

Aides to Johnson said he hoped the study would lend support for such a move. D.C. United has sought for more than a year to relocate from its home at RFK Stadium.

"We'd love to have them," David Byrd, the county's deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, said yesterday as the report was delivered to the County Council.

But the only two council members to respond to the report, Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel) and Eric Olson (D-College Park), said they doubted that the stadium would be as beneficial as the study suggests.

Olson noted that, although the study projected that the stadium could host up to 63 events annually, D.C. United has only 15 regular-season home games a year.

"I guess I'm a little skeptical about that," Olson said.

He said fewer events have taken place at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center than were projected before its opening in 2002. "We haven't seen the concerts and other events" that were expected, he said.

Gary A. McGuigan, the stadium authority's project manager, said D.C. United hosts tournaments in addition to regular games and pointed out that lacrosse games and NCAA and international soccer games could be held at the stadium, according to the study. He said 10 women's soccer teams that play in Montgomery County have expressed an interest in moving their games to a new stadium.

The study did not mention where such a stadium might be located. It also did not provide any information about who would pay for its construction. Byrd said Johnson wants the team to build near the Metro station in Greenbelt or New Carrollton, where it could anchor a mixed-use development.

D.C. United has been negotiating with D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration on a proposed stadium at Poplar Point in Southeast Washington. Talks stalled last year over the financial terms.

Aides to Fenty have developed a package in which the District would spend $150 million in public money on a 27,000-seat stadium and hotel, but Victor B. MacFarlane, the team's managing principal, has sought $225 million in public subsidies.

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