Virginia is Just a DC United Negotiating Chip

Not even close to there yet
Steve Goff is reporting that on top of DC United considering Baltimore, the team is talking stadium to a Virginia county outside of the beltway – likely Loudoun. None of this should really come as a surprise (see my take on the Baltimore news). United has to keep their options open and need a credible alternative to improve its negotiating hand with the District. In fact, Kevin Payne indicated that the DC city council is waiting on United to submit a few ideas, so in essence the ball is in United’s court.

I feel pretty hopeful that United will be able to work a deal with DC. Chang is now the 100 percent owner and simply wants a profitable place for the team – not some major development deal and is willing to scale back hopes of a jewel of a stadium. Furthermore, we are clearly past the time – due to the recession and past stadium dealings – when the team would expect the city to break the bank for a stadium. With expectations in line, a scaled back proposal, no need for a big land give away, Fenty not wanting to lose a team in an election season, and momentum behind soccer growing with the World Cup – I think it is quite possible a deal could actually get done with the District.

Additionally, the notion of United moving to the Virginia exurbs, just doesn’t strike me as likely for a number of reasons. United would be moving really far from most of their fan base. Any fans in Maryland and DC would rue going out to Loudoun. The traffic situation in northern Virginia is an absolute disaster – and will definitely continue to be if this knucklehead gets elected. It can routinely take an hour or more to drive the 20 miles to Loudoun. In fact, leaving DC, no matter which way you go, is simply a nightmare. United would in all likelihood see a long-term decline in attendance with this move.

Metro expansion is happening out to Dulles – any stadium is most likely located along this route – and that will probably mitigate the attendance drop off. But the line has not been completed yet – it still has years to go and who knows if it will be completed on time. It is awfully risky to build a stadium based on a metro line that has not yet been built.

Finally, for United to move out to the exurbs, they would probably be looking for a massive give away of public funds. One problem, Loudoun has NO MONEY! It is the epicenter of the region’s housing bubble, as sprawling clear-cut cookie cutter homes were built in the thousands. Funding is short, housing values have collapsed, and the region will likely shrink. The only thing they would likely provide is a land give away – not cheap, but not exactly a paid for stadium.

All in all United has a very urban identity. Moving out past the immediate suburbs would greatly impact the make-up of its fan base – likely seeing a significant decline in the young urban 20 somethings that make up much of its ravenous support. It would be a big risk for the team to move so far and one that I don’t think they will eagerly pursue.


One Response

  1. […] chances of getting any locale to contribute significant funds to a stadium is very limited. Virginia is in a financial mess and counties that United has flirted with like Loudoun in the outer suburbs are not only a […]

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