Pr. George's Council Committee Votes Against Soccer Stadium Bill

By Ovetta Wiggins and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Prince George's County Council committee yesterday recommended that the county oppose legislation that would launch planning for a stadium for the D.C. United soccer team.

In a 5 to 0 vote, with two abstentions, the council's General Assembly committee recommended withholding support for a bill that would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority to study the site and financing methods for the project. The bill would also allow design work to begin.

Although all nine council members are members of the committee, council Chairman Marilynn M. Bland (D-Clinton) said yesterday that the action does not reflect the council's final position.

"While the actions taken in such committee meetings are generally considered recommendations, reflecting the sense of the Council at that time, they are not official and do not indicate a final Council decision or position," Bland said in a statement.

D.C. United officials were uncertain how to respond. "It's difficult to react to today's vote, as we've not yet spoken to the legislators and don't know what, exactly, they are opposed to," said Doug Hicks, a spokesman for the team.

Council member Eric Olson (D-College Park) said he is not convinced that the stadium, slated to cost $180 million to $195 million, will become the economic engine for the county that its backers describe. He also expressed concern about an amendment to the original bill that would allow Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to purchase land from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to build the stadium, a mixed-use development and an agency headquarters on the site off Garrett Morgan Boulevard.

"The council has not taken a position on a new Park and Planning headquarters, and it assumes that we would do that," Olson said. "That is a fatal flaw."

Some state lawmakers acknowledged that a council vote of opposition could create problems winning passage of a stadium bill in the House of Delegates. Del. Michael Vaughn (D-Prince George's), a stadium proponent, said the council vote will make passage in Annapolis "an uphill climb."

But Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George's), the bill's sponsor, noted that the proposal has the support of County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and said she will continue to urge colleagues to back it.

"I'm not clear as to why they would have voted unfavorable on an opportunity to get information about a potential revenue source for the county," she said.

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