Wednesday, January 23, 2008

10/21/07: The Washington Post - Not United On A Stadium

District officials would be wise to take seriously competition from the state of Maryland in providing D.C. United a suitable site for a new 27,000-seat soccer stadium.

With negotiations between the D.C. government and United at a standstill, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot proposed last week that the state try to attract the four-time MLS champions.

United's owner, Victor B. MacFarlane, has offered to pay for the new stadium at a cost of between $150 million and $200 million. In return, MacFarlane wants the city to spend $350 million on infrastructure costs, as well as giving him the right to develop 8 million square feet around the stadium's site at Poplar Point -- not that far from the new baseball stadium.

One government source told me he believes the city and United will cut a deal. But suburban venues have become common nesting spots for other MLS teams -- a fact Mayor Adrian M. Fenty should recognize.

United currently plays at aging RFK Stadium -- site of next month's MLS Cup and host to many big-time soccer events during the 33 years Major League Baseball avoided Washington. The team has a strong and diverse following, and the sport continues to grow in popularity.
United's success over the years should spur the mayor to move swiftly. Or else the city could lose the team, as it lost the Redskins slightly more than 10 years ago when the late owner, Jack Kent Cooke, became so frustrated with the D.C. bureaucracy he built a stadium in Landover.

Ten years later we follow behind-the-scenes activity reportedly occuring among city and Redskins intermediaries to bring the team back to D.C. or on the RFK site in a 95,000-seat retractable roof stadium. The Redskins deny such a plan exists and D.C. officials aren't talking much. But who knows what lurks in the mind of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder?

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