Prospects for a DC United Stadium Might Not Be Hopeless

The Washington City Paper has a good overall rundown on the state of DC United’s stadium search. As we all know it’s not pretty. In the campaign for Mayor both Mayor Fenty and challenger Vince Gray have adopted essentially the same line on the stadium – we want United in DC, but economic times are bad so it’s doubtful we can build them a stadium.

This should not come as shocking to DC residents or to the residents of almost every municipality in the country. The era of tax-payer funded stadiums is likely over, especially in a city like DC that essentially just got hosed by MLB to spend more than $600 billion for the Nationals stadium.

While Fenty didn’t find away to make it work for DC United, I think the real bad guy in this situation was DC United’s initial owner Victor MacFarlane who really just cared about getting a land give away and building lots of condos. But even after all that, it was still quite plausible that DC United would have been part of the Poplar Point redevelopment plan. But that plan crashed and burned with the economic crash.

While it might be conceivable that the city of Baltimore decides to swoop in and build United a new stadium, don’t bet on it. Remember United thought they had a deal with stadium friendly PG County, but that fell through when it became politically unpalatable in the downturn. State and local governments in Maryland are facing tough budget choices just as DC is and political support for soccer, let alone any sport, is likely going to be minimal if not non-existent.

However, this situation does not mean DC is an orphan. It just means that they really have no leverage. No city is going to pay for them to come, and ownership groups that seemingly once existed in places like St. Louis, lost cash and access to financing in the downturn. With Will Chang, they also now have an owner that is not rich enough to build a stadium on his own.

This means is that Will Chang needs to find some more owners/investors that will be able to largely finance a stadium. The reality is that if DC United is going to get a stadium, they will have to bring a lot of cash to the table. This however, creates a chicken and egg like problem, new owners are unlikely to come on board unless there is a concrete way forward on the stadium front, because without a stadium investing in United makes little sense.

While the situation may seem hopeless, I don’t think it is as hopeless as United fans believe, or the City paper implies.

The major reason for this is that DC has two big tracks of land that it just received from the federal government in June. These are the familiar Poplar Point and the Hill East plan which is directly south of RFK.

Now Poplar Point was where United was originally going to build its stadium. Fenty picked a developer for the site that had an “option” for a stadium and United was in talks with the developer until the developer pulled out of the entire project. Nothing has happened on the site since, but with the land transfer from the feds to the city officially complete, the city will be searching for new developers. It would seem quite plausible that United could push to have a stadium included as part of that plan to anchor the development of the site. The other area is “Hill East” which is located just south of RFK. This development plan is also in search of a developer. With a smaller footprint this might not be able to house a stadium as easily however, a DC United stadium could conceivably be incorporated.

None of this means that the city will build United a stadium. They won’t. But I find it quite plausible that the city could facilitate a land transfer or pay for infrastructure costs to the site.

If you are an optimist, it could be that the city either under Fenty or Gray works out a deal with United which includes them in the plans for one of these redevelopments provided they pay for the stadium. This would at the very least enable United’s ownership to go to potential investors and say we have a path to a stadium – but we need (insert large sum) to get there.

Now this could take a long time. But it is conceivable that talks of this variety have already gone on this year with both candidates and as a result United is essentially staying out of the race.

This could be wrong and the situation could be hopeless. But frankly, I don’t believe United is losing money at RFK, they are making a lot less than they could, but I bet they can financially afford to stay there for a pretty long while.


6 Responses

  1. Nice article, but I’m pretty sure that DC got hosed into paying for a $600 MILLION stadium, not BILLION 😉

  2. “None of this means that the city will build United a stadium. They won’t. But I find it quite plausible that the city could facilitate a land transfer or pay for infrastructure costs to the site. ”

    I think you’ve missed some critical details in the Poplar Point fiasco.

    The city was never asked to build a stadium for United. The club was going to pay for the stadium. The stumbling point was that Fenty was unwilling to put up city funds for infrastructure. This was despite the fact that literally any building of housing or businesses in that spot would require similar infrastructure costs.

    The city was never going to build a stadium for DC, and they also made it clear that they won’t foot the bill for infrastructure.

    After what happened with the Nationals, the only way United gets a stadium in DC is if they fund everything. That means feasibility studies, building the stadium, building the roads, and all the rest of the massive infrastructure costs. No one in DC politics is willing to spend even 1 cent on a stadium or anything related to a stadium, because that word is now political poison.

  3. I think the city should look at the triangle created by Benning road/Maryland/17th St. I think United should look to build a neighborhood stadium,- with minimum or no parking. 22K seat stadium. The streetcar-Union Station to the west, Benning road to the east and near RFK parking lot-so tailgating can still happen. Have the stadium include retail space with access year round..and you have a solid addition to the Area. Add the new condo’s going up on Maryland and you have the population to support United.

  4. That looks like a nice stadium

  5. I also believe it’s not hopeless.


  6. In the middle of England bright sunshine, Rooney summer hair effect obviously, thick hair has faster than captain Nemanja. Just past the holiday season, United’s No. 10 has been fully rest, he and his wife Colleen to the Caribbean Sea, then returned to England to Glass to Glastonbury festival. Finally, Rooney wear nike total90 laser on the southern coast of France to end the long holidays, rest for a month.

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