Friday, February 13, 2009
Two weeks after the unraveling of a development deal that could have allowed the D.C. United soccer team to build a stadium at Poplar Point in the District, the team's co-owner said yesterday that he is committed to moving to Prince George's County.
Meeting with state senators from Prince George's in Annapolis, Victor MacFarlane said the team wants to build a 24,000-seat "urban stadium" in the county that would be the center of a mixed-use development project.
"We think there will be a huge benefit to bringing D.C. United to Prince George's County," he said.
D.C. United has played at 48-year-old RFK Stadium since the franchise was founded in the mid-1990s. MacFarlane has threatened to move out of the District before and had been in talks with leaders in Prince George's for months.
His commitment to a move follows the withdrawal of the D.C. government's development partner from the deal at Poplar Point, which had been MacFarlane's favored D.C. location for a new stadium.
MacFarlane said the team would pay 25 percent of the estimated $180 million to $195 million that a stadium would cost. The remainder would be financed by tax revenue generated at the stadium.
Legislation was introduced in the General Assembly yesterday to earmark the taxes for construction. MacFarlane stressed that he was asking for no existing tax revenue.
He told Prince George's senators that the team is looking at three sites for the stadium in the county. One is at the Morgan Boulevard Metro Station, owned by Metro, and a second is at the same station, owned by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. A third site in Largo is also under consideration, he said.
After the hearing, a spokesman for the team said that, in fact, seven sites are under consideration in the county, including five at or near Metro stations, and that the team expects to announce its selection in 30 to 60 days.
He would not specify the other locations.
"We're engaged in a process to determine the site which will provide the greatest benefit to the people of Prince George's County, the state of Maryland and our fans," team spokesman Doug Hicks said.
Prince George's leaders reacted to the announcement with excitement, hopeful that the team and stadium could boost the county's reputation and create jobs in the middle of the economic downturn.
The Maryland Stadium Authority released a study in September concluding that a professional soccer stadium in Prince George's could create more than 1,000 jobs in the county.
"Having a developer with the history and passion for rebuilding or contributing to the revitalization of older established communities is just a tremendous economic opportunity for the county," said Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George's), who is sponsoring the bill.
A spokesman for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) said the executive is happy about MacFarlane's interest. Johnson is scheduled to join D.C. United leaders at a news conference Monday to announce further details of the deal.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), a county resident, called the prospect of the move a "great economic boost for the county."
At Poplar Point, MacFarlane talked of building a hotel and conference center attached to the stadium and was seeking $150 million to $225 million in public financing.
The D.C. Council and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) had balked at committing that much public money after the long fight over the financing of the Washington Nationals' $611 million baseball stadium.
Fenty said in a statement that he had not seen D.C. United's Prince George's proposal and could not comment until he did.
D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said he thought it "certainly regrettable" if the team felt the need to look elsewhere.
But, he added, "our financial situation is quite precarious at this point. . . . We have to be mindful of the financial condition we're facing at this stage."
Staff writers Nikita Stewart and Steven Goff contributed to this report.