Prince George's County Asks Metro to Sell Land for Soccer Stadium

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) has formally asked Metro to sell land the transit agency owns at the Morgan Boulevard subway station in Landover to the regional parks agency for use as a new soccer stadium for D.C. United.

In a letter sent yesterday, Johnson said the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission would like to construct offices on the land as well as a D.C. United facility.

Johnson's letter did not propose a purchase price, and in an interview he provided no details about how a sale might work. But he said the team, the county and the commission all believe a stadium at the centrally located Metro station could drive economic development that would benefit the county.

D.C. United leaders have said they want to move from 48-year-old RFK Stadium to a new 24,0000-seat facility in Prince George's.

They say a new stadium will cost $180 million to $195 million, and they have proposed that the team pay a quarter of the cost. The remainder would be paid by tax revenue generated at the stadium, they say.

D.C. United President Kevin Payne said yesterday that team leaders believe the Morgan Boulevard Metro land would be the ideal location for the stadium. Besides offering direct access to Metro's Blue Line, the site is close to the Capital Beltway and adjacent to FedEx Field, where drivers could possibly park for soccer games.

A spokeswoman for Metro said that the agency's rules require a competitive bidding process when selling land to private developers but that the agency sometimes negotiates sales directly to other government entities. Sales must be approved by Metro's board of directors.

"We are working with the county to understand its proposal," spokeswoman Candace Smith said in a statement.

Johnson's letter came on the same day that supporters and opponents of a new stadium descended on Annapolis to offer testimony about a bill that would allow the Maryland Stadium Authority to push ahead with negotiations on stadium financing.

As introduced, the bill would have also authorized the state agency to issue up to $178 million in bonds to fund the stadium, an idea that had drawn stiff opposition, because the state and county both face budget shortfalls.

The bill sponsor, Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George's), said yesterday that the measure will be amended to remove references to the bonds and to authorize only continued study.

Until last year, Metro was in negotiations to sell the 47-acre parcel of land to the Morgan Boulevard Joint Venture Group, which includes county developers Kareem Abdus-Salaam and William A. Youngblood.

Smith said that those negotiations ended without a conclusion but that the agency is considering a request to reopen talks.

In his letter, Johnson wrote that he believes a deal for the land should be reached among Metro, the commission, D.C. United and the developers. Abdus-Salaam and Youngblood are both longtime supporters of Johnson who have previously received county backing for projects.

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