Before becoming mayor, Muriel E. Bowser spent a considerable amount of time on the D.C. Council determining how best to get a new stadium built for D.C. United without trading away a prominent municipal building or overly strapping the city’s budget.
Late last year she and every one of her colleagues on the D.C. Council agreed to pay for about half the cost of an estimated $286.7 million stadium by assembling and preparing the needed land on Buzzard Point in Southwest.
Since Bowser became mayor, her staff has been working to finalize details of the deal. She and the council also included $106 million in next year’s budget for the project, on top of nearly $33 million set aside from last year’s budget.
Despite all that, discussions between the team and Virginia officials about a stadium site in Loudoun County raised the prospect of United still leaving the city. Bowser was asked Tuesday how close she was to wrapping up a deal with with United.
“We believe we have a final agreement with the team. The residents of the District of Columbia have $100 million on the table in [next year’s budget] to deliver a clean site,” she said.
“We have a very generous deal on the table. We have unanimous approval from the council of the District of Columbia and substantial agreement from the residents of the District of Columbia. So we have demonstrated our commitment to keeping D.C. United in the District of Columbia, which they have represented to their fans is their long desire.”
Boswer said she had heard rumors of the team considering Virginia “since last year.”
“Any time you have these mega-rich sports teams, they try to compete and pit jurisdictions against each other. Our approach has always been to put a fair deal on the table,” she said.
Bowser often describes D.C. as the “sports capital,” and she was an avid backer of the region’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Summer Games alongside Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).
Now that McAuliffe is pursuing D.C. United (as well as the Redskins), she may have to to decide whether the city can offer the team more.
“I don’t know how you get a sweeter deal than what we have on the table,” she said.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), said he was upset Tuesday morning after reading about meetings between the team and economic development officials in Virginia.
“I wonder if it’s a negotiating tactic,” he said, questioning if the team was perhaps trying to accelerate the city’s land acquisition for the stadium, which many expect will require the mayor to invoke eminent domain.
Mendelson was also heavily involved in the deal in December to secure taxpayer subsidies for the stadium.
“We’re very far along in the process here in the District so that I’m comfortable that we can deliver a stadium within the timelines that were agreed to,” he said. “I can’t see how starting brand new in Northern Virginia gets them anywhere quicker. And if it gets them there cheaper, perhaps it’s because they are looking at farmland that is … less accessible than the center of the region.”
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz