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D.C. United Bill Details Unveiled

Rosalind Helderman

Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George's) has begun circulating an amended version of her D.C. United bill, hoping to persuade doubters that her proposal will not commit Prince George's County or the state to building a new soccer stadium in the county but merely allow the idea to be studied.

Unlike an original draft of the bill that had attracted stiff opposition, the new version of the proposal eliminates any reference to the Maryland Stadium Authority floating bonds to pay for a new home for the team, which now plays at RFK Stadium in DC. Instead, the bill authorizes the Stadium Authority to conduct new feasibility studies, do an analysis of the possible financing for a stadium and perform up to 10 percent of the design work, to help elected leaders figure out how much it could cost.

How would these studies be paid for? The amended bill doesn't really spell it out--it appropriates no new money for the studies but does authorize the Stadium Authority to spend a portion of a $500,000 study fund it already gets each year for the soccer stadium. The bill would also authorize the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission to explore purchasing land for a soccer stadium and a new headquarters for the regional agency, but specifies local government would have to approve funding.

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) has asked WMATA to sell a piece of land at the Morgan Blvd. Metro Station for just this purpose.

Does it really take legislation passed by the General Assembly to authorize people to study an idea? Griffith says it does, particularly if consultants must be hired. But she said she hopes her colleagues, who have expressed skepticism about even discussing a new soccer stadium in the current economic environment, will understand her bill is not a commitment.

"This is not a shovel in the ground legislation," she said. "It's a gathering of the best information piece of legislation."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 24, 2009; 9:49 AM ET
Categories:  Prince George's County , Rosalind Helderman  
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The United just aren't going to be bringing in the kinds of revenue that Griffith and Johnson are projecting, the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission is having to be subsidized with tax dollars because they are losing money with the United playing at RFK. If this was such a great deal for PG, why aren't Montgomery, Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria in the running to build the stadium?

The United's ownership group needs to pay for their own stadium and build it in the District.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 24, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Ah, PowerBoater69...shouldn't you be over on a national politics thread, taking shots at the "Democrat" Party?

Posted by: EdTheRed | March 24, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Who is this team "The United" of which you speak? ;) The club, normally referred to as "United" has, studied this issue extensively, and the reason they don't make money in RFK is that (1) the stadium is out-sized for their attendance (which the planned MD stadium would not be) and (2) they don't control the revenue streams (which they would at a MD stadium). As to why they didn't build in the District, take that question up with Mr. Fenty.

Posted by: schmuckatelli | March 24, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

How much does maintenance and upkeep to RFK cost, PowerBoater69?

Posted by: sitruc | March 24, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Stadium development for DC United in PG County is good business for both sides. The stadium will spur development by the Morgan Blvd Station and United will have a proper size stadium that will allow them to make a profit. Umlike what PowerBoater has to say, the DC Sports Commission does quite well off the rent, concessions, and parking fees it earns from United home games. it is United that struggles to be profitable in that scenario.

Posted by: Liverbird | March 24, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Wow, with logic like that powerboater69, I'm going to have to revisit my formerly very positives feelings about the two components that make up your name .....
DC United never claim to be able to pay for the project themselves with revenues from their 18 home games (which is twice as many as the Redskins who sit idly down the street not letting you use their stadium for events), but with the Stadium Authority being involved you get alot more opportunities to use a state-of-the-art facility to raise revenue (and publicity!) for the state and county.

Nice argument for Arlington and Fairfax, you're obviously new here to the area, or just being obtuse.

DC United have been a very good corporate citizen in the area, something that should be rewarded as it is so unusual in this day and age of money-grabbing for no value returned. I understand some skepticism, it's a good thing, but that can be cured with reading the facts and not just spouting off ridiculous NIMBY talking points.

But if no prospective revenue and no created jobs looks better to you than a relatively low-risk chance at some good revenue and better infrastructure development along with some decent local employment, fine stick by your snarky attitude, I'm sure that will help get your county out of their financial troubles.

Posted by: dcufan | March 24, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I think it's high time that Northern Virginia, which is where the majority of the fan base is, start to develop their own plans to build a stadium for the team.

I think Loudoun County would be ideal!

Posted by: cfrazier9 | March 24, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

To answer why not elsewhere, let us start with Virginia. How many professional sports stadiums have been built in Northern Virginia? Except for the Prince William Cannons, that would be zero. Virginia has nothing to compare with the Maryland Stadium Authority. The only other jurisdiction that is more NIMBY than NoVA is Montgomery County. The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission are not the only people losing money at RFK, so is DC United. An embarrassment to its namesake, the place has become a dump that is the wrong size for the 20,000 fan base.

Take a drive around the Beltway some Sunday. Take a look around and find one other place inside the Beltway that has the space for a stadium. Perhaps the reason they are looking at PG County is because it is the best place for it.

How about that; PG is the best place for something? This may be a foreign thought to those who do not live there, and it seems from the above comment (PowerBoater69) foreign to many who do.

Posted by: greenbeltjoe | March 24, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

It just seems odd that there was all this "pomp and circumstance" around outfitting the PG County officials when we're not even close to a stadium. Hell, apparently, we don't even know whether its feasible or not, based on this.

I gotta say, as a huge fan of the most decorated program in MLS history, DC United has has gotten the shaft from DC and PG County. Move on, I say and get this stadium built!

Anyone remember that game a few years back when Mayor Fenty opened the game with big news that we'd have a stadium by 2009?

Posted by: cfrazier9 | March 24, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

If you want to know why DC United won't be having a stadium in Virginia like, ever, just look to Richmond for that. And forget Loudoun, there's no Metro out there, which is a pretty major factor in choosing a site.

Posted by: Comunista | March 24, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I have serious doubts that RFK is losing money with DC United. I had read a few years ago in the WP that RFK was making a good amount off of DC United.

Can anybody who says RFK is losing money point me to a source on this?

Posted by: BigBubba1 | March 24, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

The United are losing money says schmuckatelli, the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission had to request $2.5 million of tax money due to loses running RFK, but somehow PG is going to plant magic beans to grow a profitable stadium. Dcufan says that there will be plenty of events in addition to the 18 home games, really, how much money do graduation ceremonies bring in?

The United fans might not like the truth, but it is in their own best interest for the long term health of the franchise to stay in the District. The ownership group is concerned more about development rights than what works for the citizens of PG County or local soccer fans. The core fanatics will follow the team but the rest of us will be watching on TV.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 24, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

With very rare exceptions, sports stadiums are not engines of development. Period.

It has been studied to death by independent economists and there is no serious dispute about it.

The only people who claim to the contrary are people with vested interests in getting the stadiums built, especially the teams, construction interests, and some politicians.

Posted by: Meridian1 | March 24, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

PowerTroll69 is a perfect example of why newspaper comment pages are only useful as a way to kill time until a compile finishes (if you're at work) or the dryer buzzes (if you're at home).

The *last* thing to expect here is honest, intelligent discussion of a topic. Move along, folks.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 24, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Heard the United bill lost 5-0 on vote. Heard a brilliant idea, of putting the stadium by George Mason, who wants to have a football team, split the costs.

Posted by: alex35332 | March 25, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

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