Study Will Gauge Pr. George's BenefitsBy Ovetta Wiggins Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 23, 2008; Page B01
With negotiations to build a stadium for D.C. United stalled in the District, Maryland officials have agreed to consider constructing a home for the soccer team in Prince George's County.
The Maryland Stadium Authority has decided to spend $75,000 on a feasibility study to look at the economic impact and potential tax benefits. The step concerned Vincent C. Gray, chairman of the D.C. Council, who noted the team's success and potential for financial growth.
"I continue to believe that we should work with D.C. United to construct the stadium in Poplar Point," Gray (D) said.
The study comes two months after Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) wrote a letter to David Raith, the stadium authority's acting director, asking the state to help the county lure the team.
In the letter, Johnson said that he met with Victor B. MacFarlane, the managing principal of the team, and Kevin Payne, the chief executive, in November and that they had expressed interest in sites in the county.
"Prince George's County is prepared to work with D.C. United to make this their new home, and would like the support and assistance of the Maryland Stadium Authority to make this happen," Johnson wrote.
United had been informally negotiating with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) about building a stadium and mixed-use development at Poplar Point along the Anacostia River, but the talks broke down last summer.
United has shown interest in two locations in College Park. But David Byrd, deputy chief administrative officer for the county, said Johnson wants the team to build a stadium near the Metro stations in New Carrollton or Greenbelt, where it could anchor a mixed-used development.
"The new D.C. United stadium . . . would be a tremendous addition to our county, bringing not only great economic benefit but adding significantly to the identity of Prince George's County, and enhancing the lifestyle our residents and visitors enjoy," Johnson wrote.
The county's mission was also twofold when it pursued the Washington Redskins: to raise revenue and lift the image of a county that has been snubbed by investors for high-end retail and residential projects.
A 1997 report estimated that the football stadium, then known as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, would generate $6 million in taxes a year: $2 million in property taxes and nearly $4 million in admission and sales taxes.
In fiscal 2006, the county received $10 million, including more than $8 million in admission and amusement taxes, from the stadium, now FedEx Field.
Raith said the stadium authority received approval from the state budget committees this month for the study, and it held a teleconference yesterday with companies interested in submitting proposals for the contract.
The contract is likely to be awarded late next month, and the report should be completed by late summer or early fall, Raith said.
The report will assess the direct and indirect impact of the stadium and the creation of jobs during construction and operation, and identify comparable facilities.
Johnson is not the only one who has suggested that Maryland try to lure the team. Comptroller Peter Franchot sent a letter to the authority's chairman, Frederick W. Puddester, in October suggesting that the state find a site for a stadium.
Franchot sent the letter to the stadium authority after learning that MacFarlane had hired consultants to look at potential sites in Maryland and Virginia.
Johnson said the county could expect more than 50 games and concerts at the stadium each year, with an attendance of more than 1 million.
"It's important to note the stadium will be a significant regional draw, bringing all new tax dollars to Prince George's County and our state," Johnson said.
He added that Prince George's has a "significant advantage over other jurisdictions in the region" because of its history with the stadium authority to promote similar developments.