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D.C. United, city officials having ‘ongoing conversations’ about new stadium

Jack Evans backtracked on comments he made on WAMU about D.C. United’s stadium search. (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said Friday that he hopes to have the framework for a D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point in place by the end of the year.

Evans backtracked on comments he made on WAMU earlier in the day, when he said the sides were in “final negotiations” over the proposed project in Southwest D.C., a few blocks west of Nationals Park.

“I wouldn’t really read too much into that,” Evans told The Post’s Jonathan O’Connell after his radio appearance. “There is nothing new, except the ongoing conversations about building a soccer stadium at Buzzard Point.”

United seemed blind-sided by Evans’s initial comments. In a prepared statement, team president Kevin Payne said, “We appreciate councilman Evans’s unswerving support and are continuing what we hope will be fruitful discussions with the District.”

Through a spokesman, Payne declined to discuss the matter further.

City Administrator Allen Lew is handling negotiations on the District’s behalf, Evans said.

However, a person close to the negotiations said the city has assigned a project manager to the stadium plan and the sides are attempting to iron out land issues. Akridge, a major developer that owns much of the land at Buzzard Point; Pepco power company; the city; and others own property in the area that United has targeted for a stadium that would accommodate between 20,000 and 24,000 spectators.

Specific stadium plans have not been finalized, but the project would be part of a mixed-use development.

The person close to the negotiations also said no announcement is imminent but the sides are “muddling through to get it done. It is moving along.”

Akridge President Matthew J. Klein told O’Connell he had not had any recent discussions about the stadium with the team or the District.

“I’m not aware of anything at this point. The ball is in D.C. United’s court,” Klein said.

United would cover the costs of constructing the stadium but also seek to keep a share of the tax revenue. The D.C. Council would have to approve such a request. The city would also pay for infrastructure improvements at Buzzard Point, an undeveloped area next to Fort McNair near the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

United is one of the few MLS teams that hasn’t built a new stadium or moved into a renovated facility. Club officials said continuing to play at 51-year-old RFK Stadium, its home since the league’s launch in 1996, is not financially feasible.

In recent years, discussions to build at Poplar Point, across the Anacostia from Nationals Park, and in Prince George’s County collapsed.

United’s stadium effort received a major boost this past summer when Erick Thohir, a deep-pocketed businessman from Indonesia, joined the club’s investment group, which has been headed for several years by San Francisco-based Will Chang.

Jason Levien, a partner with Thohir in the Philadelphia 76ers ownership, is leading United’s stadium effort. Reached in New York, Levien said he couldn’t comment on the discussions and referred questions to team offices.

United has also had on-going conversations with the city of Baltimore, but the club would like to remain in Washington.