The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Soccer stadium bills are signed as Mayor Vincent Gray closes out term

Mayor Vincent C. Gray is surrounded by soccer stadium supporters as he signs the bill paving its way on Tuesday, Dec. 30. (Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post)

Reveling one last time in one of his greatest triumphs, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) signed legislation Tuesday morning paving the way for a $300 million professional soccer stadium in Southwest Washington.

Gray used a dozen pens to sign the legislation, handing them out to key aides, D.C. United officials and team supporters who attended the John A. Wilson Building signing — one of Gray’s final public events as mayor.

In his remarks, Gray compared the promise of the D.C. United stadium to the Verizon Center, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and Nationals Park — all of which were controversial in their planning but are widely considered welcome pieces of the D.C.’s urban fabric today.

The stadium is being built with up to $150 million of direct city investment, with additional costs in foregone tax revenue. D.C. United is spending roughly $150 million to build the stadium on land the city is responsible for purchasing and preparing.

“I have no doubt this will have the same kind of transformative effects as other projects,” Gray said, referring to the “underutilized” Buzzard Point area where the stadium will sit.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) used the occasion to give some valedictory remarks on Gray, who leaves office Friday. “This is part of Mayor Gray’s legacy, just as we think of the Nationals stadium as part of Mayor [Anthony] Williams’s legacy,” he said of the stadium deal.

Besides the two soccer bills, Gray also signed bills Tuesday establishing a memorial to the victims of the 2009 Metro crash and establishing new protections for adults who are under guardianship orders.

While Gray will appear at Friday’s inauguration ceremony for successor Muriel E. Bowser, handing her the city seal, the bill signing could be the final public event he presides over.

Gray may still be able to cut the ribbon on the city’s long-developing streetcar line on H Street and Benning Road NE, though city officials were cagey Tuesday about the prospects that service could be launched before Gray leaves office, with safety certifications still to be completed.