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D.C. United stadium proposal faces more delays


Photo by Brad Smith/


In the latest set of delays for the D.C. United stadium project, District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Tuesday that it would require four separate committees to evaluate and approve the planned proposal before it heads to a final vote, according to the Washington Post.

In addition to Mendelson, the stadium will need to be approved by a trio of other district lawmakers: Economic Development chair Muriel Bowser, Government Operations chair Kenyan McDuffie and Finance and Revenue chair Jack Evans.

While Evans has long been a supporter of the stadium deal, the other three have been much more noncommittal throughout the process, including Bowser, who is a mayoral nominee. The deal is unlikely to be discussed fully by the group’s mid-July summer recess, meaning voting will likely occur in the fall at the earliest. Rather than voting on the proposal in the Committee of the Whole, which would have required one vote, Mendelson chose to vote by committee, delaying the process.

The voting process is just the latest in a series of close calls and missed deadlines, as outgoing Mayor Vincent Gray has made it a priority to complete the stadium deal before leaving office January 2, 2015. However, according to The Washington Post, local lawmakers are much less interested in Gray’s policies due to his impending exit.

Gray’s latest proposal brought forth the idea of swapping a city building, the Frank D. Reeves Center, and $37 million to developer Akridge in exchange for the land desired for the stadium. However, numerous politicians, including Bowser, voiced concerns with the proposal.

In her current role, Bowser could block any major land swap and, if elected mayor, Bowser has already stated that the stadium project would be put on the back burner.

“I get concerned about the land swap idea,” Bowser said, “especially for the Reeves Center with the numbers that I have heard being bounced around about what people think it’s worth.”

“I don’t know that that’s my first priority,” Bowser added about the stadium project. “My priority would be making sure that we are meeting a whole lot of capital needs that the city has, including how we’re going to transform middle schools across the city.”

Meanwhile, the committees are in no rush to get the deal done.

“As much as I like the mayor, this should not be about passing this before the mayor goes out of office,” said Mendelson. “There’s an urgency in that there’s a live deal that needs to be approved or disapproved. That ought to happen without unnecessary delay. But if the goal is, we want to get this passed quickly because we want to get this passed quickly, that would not be responsible.”

The committee’s opening meeting will be headed by Mendelson and may or may not include the other three committee heads. The first meeting is scheduled for June 26, coincidentally during the U.S. Men’s National Team’s final group stage match against Germany.

What do you think of the handling of the stadium approval process? Will the stadium vote ever get passed?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Keep calm. This is standard city council horse trading and posturing. They’re trying to figure out how they can all get a cut and be able to position themselves as the one who “stood up to greedy developers” while also “redeveloping Southwest DC.” This part of the process is about the council positioning and branding. It’ll get done but it’s going to be messy as the horse trading goes on.

  2. Perhaps it is time to move on. By the time, all the committees are finished shuffling papers back and forth and voting, it will be 2045. Please move the team to Baltimore.

  3. Just move it to Northern Virginia. Weren’t there rumors about Tyson’s area being looked at some time ago? Keep DC in DC campaign isn’t working

  4. I gave up hope when it comes to DC getting a stadium about 6 or 7 years ago. I’ll believe it when I see it… Until see DC play home matches someplace else, I won’t change my mind.

    I took my 9 year old daughter to Red Bull last Sunday to see the US-Turkey friendly. When my daughter talked it about on a podcast segment and the first words out of her mouth were talking about how terrible RFK is. That’s when I realized that the only big stadium that she’s been to was RFK. Her reaction was a big reality check for both us.

    RFK is someplace that we go to see DC and the US senior national teams play exclusively because we support the product–certainly not for the venue.

    I’d go to RBA for a game just for the experience if I just happened to be passing through in area.

  5. This is what happens when government gets too big for its collective britches; committees, sub-committees, chairs, passing through echelon after echelon of bureaucracy when in the end nothing gets done because so many different people have their hand in the pot and have their own personal political agenda. Bureaucracy breeds corruption. The DC governing unit is a reflection of the federal government it works with in its borders.

  6. Ah.. I need a mid-July summer recess after reading this…

    This new stadium looks ok, but honestly the process iis shameful. Another example of a gov rolling over to be looted by a MLB team for a publically funded stadium but then they expect a MLS team to wait decades for their privately funded stadium to be allowed..

    At this point a Redskins-DCU combined stadium at RFK would be terrible if it is the only way to get congress to allow RFK to be re-built.

    • The baseball stadium brings 30,000 people downtown 81 times a year..the economic impact of a soccer stadium can’t even begin to compare.

      • They may bring in 30.000 people a year but here is what the city and federal government spent to get the baseball stadium:

        DC contributed $670.3 million, paying $135 million upfront and borrowing another $535 million. In addition, the city spent $82.6 million of federal money on upgrades to the Navy Yard Metro station, South Capitol Street and the Douglass Bridge.

        DC United wants a stadium that will hold 20-25,000 people and they only want $150 million.

      • Someone is always going to complain about money. Rightly so in my mind. Governments should have NEVER gotten into the business of funding stadiums, but we are many decades down that road and it isn’t going to change.

        I live in Portland. We renovated a nearly century old stadium (actually there have been different stadiums on the same ground for over that amount of time … but current facility was opened 35 years before RFK. I realize that isn’t an option in DC … but just as a matter of perspective. There are STILL people in Portland who constantly foam at the mouth over the city putting up money for the expansion and upgrade – for a total of $22 million (it is mostly minor league baseball proponents who are angry that they are now stuck with only short season A ball out in the suburbs … that somehow AA or AAA would be better in a stadium with sightlines built for a rectangular field with only 1-5k showing up per game in a 20k stadium – four seasons later it is fairly clear the repurposing is a success way beyond the pro forma, but they refuse to accept that; the other group is people who just like to complain about government yet have no real clue how government financing works and think that $22 million, which was from a spectator facilities fund, should have been diverted to schools or roads or homeless or whatever their pet cause is … but I digress). Ultimately this was structured as what is effectively a loan. The city owns the stadium and put up a little less than half of the money for upgrades (The Timbers the rest). In exchange the Timbers continue to pay rent as well as ticket fees and the projections were that the city would break even in 20 years (including their part of paying for operations those 20 years) but it was based on 16 games a year with average attendance of 15k (total attendance 240,000). In reality the Timbers are bringing in 350,000 for regular season, plus another 100-150k for USOC, pre-season, now CCL this year, friendlies, playoffs, etc. (variable depending on which of these they qualify for but in years with no CCL or playoffs, they will have 3 home preseason games if they continue the tourney and would put in a couple of interesting friendlies for at least 5-6 extra matches a year) and then you add in the Thorns who draw 10-15k a game for 12 games (another 150k attendance) and the stadium is really drawing 600-700,000 total attendance a year – almost three times the projections. With the revenue stream, the city is lined up to pay off the expenses in 7-8 years rather than 20 as projected … and then start actually making money off the deal. Still doesn’t keep the soccer haters from complaining though.

        Structured correctly, cities can benefit from these deals … the problem is that very few of them structure them well and they amount to a big giveaway. The difference between MLB, NFL and NBA is that we have about 50-55 cities nation wide with the populations big enough to support a team (not saying that all would, but potentially could), yet only 30-32 teams in these leagues. The leagues use their mass popularity and leverage to get better deals. A perfect example of this is the Montreal Expos. They could not get what they wanted / needed in Montreal so decided to look at options to move. Washington was always their first choice, but they used leverage of other cities (notably Portland …. there were serious plans to take a wrecking ball to what is now Providence Park and rebuild a 35k vs use it as a temporary MLB stadium while building one of that size elsewhere). Portland was never getting that team, however they used the fact that Portland was in the bidding process and a serious bidder, making plans, etc. to extract a sweeter deal from their real target (Washington) all along.

        I understand that governments have an interest in keeping their citizens happy and do put money into other civic minded structures / activities which could very well also be called “entertainment”, however professional sports is a business. If the city (or government entity) owns the stadium then yes, they have a stake in the stadium and should be a part of paying for building / renovating / upgrading. But where we have failed is telling pro leagues / franchises that the taxpayers shouldn’t be their bank (loan money) or their welfare (giveaways) check because it only benefits a few people (notably the owners) and that the business model should be that the league/team takes on the stadium cost / risk, not the city / taxpayers in most cases (unless the city is going to own the stadium which isn’t ideal for any team – they lose control that way).

        Sorry for the book.

      • Actually Nationals average attendance is 24k, and if you’ve ever been to a Nationals game, you know that’s more like 20k.

        DC United with a new stadium would draw that much or more, easily, and you could add international club and country events, another 5-10 per year. There is no international equivalent for baseball.

        So yes, it does compare.

      • Let’s say they both actually average 25K.
        25K x 81= 2,025,000 people coming in for baseball…plus added events.
        25K x 18 = 450,000 people coming for soccer…plus added events.

        So assuming soccer sells out every game (bad assumption), they’re asking for 1/4 of the amount the baseball team got for 1/4 of the fans. Not unreasonable, if you ignore the fact that everyone now sees the baseball deal as absolutely horrible.

      • Yet, somehow, someway, you managed to make a comparison (albeit poorly, and accurately) now, didn’t ya, Matt?

      • A preamble, all of this is not meant to be nitpicky but merely highlight the real complexity of this issue. Simply put there is no free lunch, the district has to decide whether they want the team here or not. Whether they want to pony up for the stadium or spend this money elsewhere or if at all. Garber has made very clear he will carefully evaluate other options (read: locations outside of DC) if the deal falls short.

        A few assumptions that you have made that are misleading.

        (1) Ticket prices for soccer games are the same price expensive then baseball games. This needs further investigation. An example of how they differ. Cheapest baseball game tickets go in the high single digits. Soccer games typically run $30-$40 at the cheapest.

        (2) The stadium plan has the ability to be expanded in size. Of which DCU would pay all the costs for any future construction.

        (3) Your ignoring what the district gets in return in the form of profit sharing/ticket surcharges for the two stadium deals. Also need to look at the amount of tax writeoffs given to the two clubs. To see which cost the District more potential revenue.

        (4) 18 is the number of home games per year. Your ignoring CCL games (not for every team) and US Open Cup games. So 18 is a bit too conservative, 20-22 might be more accurate when you also include midsummer friendlies.

        (5) Your comparing the nations oldest sport to the nations fastest growing sport. One league with teams over 100 years old. One league not even in it’s twenties yet.

      • Look, I’m in favor of the stadium plan. I want DC United to stay in DC. But vilifying the council is silly. DC has a lot of serious financial needs, and convincing people that spending money on another stadium is close to impossible, even if it will end up paying for itself in the long run. Baseball has a long and storied tradition in DC, and the return of the team was massively heralded by pretty much everybody…and DC responded to the out-swelling of support with an absolutely terrible stadium deal. The don’t want to make the same mistake for a team that, let’s face it, the average DC voter couldn’t care less about. That’s why there’s no real comparison to be made between baseball, soccer and football.

  7. also, the first Council hearing has been scheduled for June 26th…the same day as the USA/Germany game. shady…

  8. Once I repeat myself, this goes for Miami and DC other MLS teams who went to the suburbs because of delusional politicians who love nfl, mlb and nba.
    It’s so pathetic politicians don’t want to support a tiny soccer stadium compared to huge nfl stadiums and mlb stadiums.
    I’m pretty sure, once united gets their stadium, redskins will get their huge nfl stadium like cowboys stadium in a snap and they will say, well we give you a soccer stadium, now we need to support the redskins.
    Another thing, the wait for this stadium better be worth, make it the best in MLS so you can shut up all the politicians and lawyers.
    By the way, I thought Baltimore was going to build a soccer stadium next to orioles.
    Oh, and what makes garber think Los Angeles 2 will get a stadium right away,

  9. Wikipedia says there are 3 uses for RFK right now. The AT/T Nations football classic is the non soccer one. (What the heck is that ?)

    Is Wikipedia just not accurate, and there are actually many concerts etc ?

    If it IS accurate, that building is on the verge of being free…why isn’t this an option ?
    Keep in mind, the Timber’s home stadium started in 1926. I was just there, it is very cool.

    Also on Wiki, is a picture of a stadium that seems to fit soccer well, maybe not perfect like Century Link, but nice…with an upper section that can be covered, Sounders style and opened when they draw fans in 5 years ( and wish they didn’t have the cookie cutter too small MLS stadium )

    • RFK is owned by the District of Columbia and is located on federally owned land. It would take an act of Congress to build anything new at the site, and since DCU is the only tenant at RFK, the District charges exceptionally high rates in order to keep the stadium in a minimal state of good repair.

      RFK is a great place to watch soccer, but it is just too expensive for DC United.

    • I don’t think that is accurate, Jay. You could have said the same thing about Kansas City before they got their new stadium, and other MLS clubs, too. When/if this thing gets built attendance will skyrocket, especially if the owners use some of the increased revenue to bring in a couple name DPs. The DC region is ripe for this. There is no doubt in my mind.

      The major problem (stadium-wise) in DC is the very limited availability of land in what is geographically a small city. Real estate prices are insane.

      It also doesn’t help that many of our city leaders have no connection to the sport, nor do their constituents (even while the sport is enormously popular around the metro area).

      • I agree that a new stadium will solve a lot in regards to lagging attendance. I know I have stopped attending as I simply am not going to go to games at RFK. Will gladly begin attending with a new stadium

        With that said, there is a point United need to cut their losses and not wait on the city anymore. While I prefer them to stay in DC, I have no problem with them moving to Baltimore at this pint if they can get a stadium

      • Of course DCU has to consider all their options, but the simple fact is that Baltimore is not nearly as attractive a market as DC It’s not as big, wealthy, or prestigious.

        (I don’t mean to knock Baltimore — there are many things I like about it more than DC — but from a marketing perspective DC has it beat by a mile.)

      • Hey, as a native Baltimoron, I gotta agree with you.
        But we do know how to get stadium deals done.

      • The problem is not land in DC The problem is a lack of political desire to get a SSS in the District done. The DC politicos just keep throwing up one roadblock after another. We have had well over a decade of these shenanigans. Long past time for DCU to move on.

      • I fail to see a comparison to the Redskins. I know fans on the opposite coast that are obssessed with the Redskins….

        The attendance at the 2009 LH US Open Cup Final 17k.
        The 17k are obssessed, I will agree, love those fans,

        but 17k….not 117k….17k.

      • DC United have incredible support and probably the strongest legacy/history from 1996-now, maybe second to the Galaxy.

        I doubt your Sounders would do much better if they played at RFK.. And had this debacle of a stadium deal draining their club over the past how many years..

        Plus you bring up 1 game! How many big crowds have we seen at RFK over the years for DCU and USA… Quite a bit.

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