By DAN KARELL
D.C. United is reportedly on the verge of passing through the latest road block in their quest to build a soccer-specific stadium.
According to a report in the Washington Post, District officials and D.C. United executives are very close to finalizing a stadium deal, one that began with an announcement more than 10 months ago to put the framework of the deal in place.
Despite missing a number of deadlines, opposition to the deal from some members of city council and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray losing the Democratic primary to Muriel Bowser, the deal is reportedly close to being settled, though future roadblocks still remain.
The report states that the deal ensures that the District will supply $150 million of the estimated $300 million project through “land infrastructure improvements” around Buzzard Point in southwestern Washington. D.C. United want to build a 20,000 seat soccer-specific stadium on a plot of land located just a few blocks southwest of Nationals Park, the home of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals.
D.C. United are expected to cover the costs of the stadium itself, estimated at $150 million, but will receive property and sales tax breaks. According to the report, D.C. United would hold a 30-year lease of the land from the District at no cost, with an option to extend. The team would also pay no sales or property taxes in the first five years of the deal.
After those first five years, United would pay 25 percent property tax and 50 percent sales tax for the next five years, followed by 50 percent property tax in year 10, 75 percent property tax in year 15, and full property tax starting in year 20. The team would have to pay full sales tax in year 10.
One snag in the deal that caused plenty of complications was a profit-sharing mechanism included in the original framework. Chief District negotiator Allen Lew negotiated a deal with D.C. United that took out profit sharing and replaced it with the sales tax payments and a future $2 surcharge on tickets.
Despite a deal close to being completed between D.C. United and the District, plenty of obstacles remain. The biggest is the land-swaps that the District is negotiating with the owners on the property at Buzzard Point, namely property developers Akridge, Pepco Holdings, and a piece of property with a Super Salvage scrap metal yard, owned by Mark Ein.
Lew, who has been negotiating to transfer over the Reeves Center municipal office building to Akridge, has threatened to use eminent domain to take control of the properties if a deal can’t be reached. The Washington Post report adds that Lew is expected to present city council with a package including the stadium deal and land transfers this week.
The potential transfer of the Reeves Center has drawn criticism from Bowser and council member Jim Graham. With Bowser likely to become the District’s next mayor, it’s likely in her hands as to whether the stadium deal and land swaps can go through.
If a stadium deal and land-swap agreements can be reached, the Washington Post estimates that the earliest D.C. United could begin play in the new stadium is 2017. D.C. United currently plays in aging RFK Stadium, and have been trying to build a new stadium for many years.