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Monday is Game Day for D.C. United in Md. House

Rosalind Helderman

The D.C. United stadium study bill is facing an exceedingly tough battle in the Maryland General Assembly.

On Saturday, the House Appropriations held a lengthy discussion of the bill, which would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority, Prince George's, the team and Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission to study the costs, benefits and feasibility of a stadium, up to performing 10 percent of stadium design work.

The committee ultimately agreed to table the item until Monday morning. Members of the committee appeared skeptical, repeatedly seeking reassurance from sponsor Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George's) that the bill would not obligate the state to any new spending or to ultimately building a stadium. She told them it would not.

Griffith is hoping to get the bill out of the House before the end of Monday, which is the crossover deadline for this year's legislative session. That's the last days bills approved by one chamber are guaranteed a hearing by the the other chamber.

But at this point, meeting the deadline would take herculean effort for the bill, even if there were no opposition. That's because if the appropriations committee gives the bill a favorable report Monday morning, the full House would still have to take up the matter twice before the end of the day to give it final passage.

The bill would have to be given its second reading early in what is expected to be a marathon session that begins at 3:30 p.m. Assuming the bill cleared second reading, the House would have to return to the issue before it adjourned for the night for a third and final debate. In between, it will be dealing with hundreds of other bills, some of deeply controversial and time consuming. It's not impossible, but it's not altogether likely.

One interesting question to watch--if Appropriations were to allow the bill out of committee, how would Prince George's delegates vote on the floor? Griffith, who chairs the delegation, has not asked the group to take a position on the issue. Delegations often take positions on measures that directly affect their locality. Griffith told the committee there was no need in this case, since the bill has statewide implications and would not result in a new project nor obligate the county to new spending.

Still, Committee Chairman Norman H Conway (D-Wicomico) opened the session by saying he had been concerned about whether the bill had local support. He noted that a majority of the County Council voted Tuesday to oppose the bill. But he said he spoke to Council Chairwoman Marilyn Bland, a bill supporter, on Saturday morning, and she assured him that the council was likely to be taking a different position on Tuesday, when it will hold a final vote on the issue.

"The council chair advised me that they will be meeting again this Tuesday and it was her hope that there would be a reversal of what was originally said," Conway said. "Her indication--she didn't say for sure--but her indication was that there would probably be support for it from the County Council."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 29, 2009; 11:38 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Prince George's County , Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

The United drew less than 16K for their home opener at a location with easy access from Virginia, yet somehow their ownership group thinks they can sucker PG into paying for a stadium. Let the United owners follow the lead of Cooke and Pollin and pay for their own building and keep the team in DC where they belong.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 29, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Powerboater:

What issues do you have exactly about the stadium financing?

Last time I looked you and the rest of Maryland's taxpayers don't pay a single dime for this but get all of the financial benefits from it. You need a serious logic check.

Posted by: dpowellutkedu | March 30, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Powerboater.

They had a smalller home opening crowd because of the projected weather forecast (showers), and there were many world cup qualifiers on tv as well. One of which was the United States.

You make a point on the stadiums though. Cooke and Pollin did build them with there own money. In Cooke's case, why is MD complaining they haven't gotten a return on their investment? All they paid for was infrastructure for the stadium. Roads, sewers, etc., which was needed anyway.

Posted by: torrey151 | March 30, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

The United need to stay in DC. Under 16,000 of us showed up at RFK for the first home game of the season, whether the low turnout was due to the threat of rain or the national team game, how many fewer fans will make it to PG County in the same conditions?

Why are elected officials even voting on whether to fund the stadium design, this should be covered 100% by team ownership.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 30, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Re: less than 16K at Saturday's home opener.

How about the fact that we are in the midst of a massive global recession and discretionary spending is likely being curtailed by many? Anyone?

And PowerBoater, you clearly have no idea what is involved in acquiring land for development in DC. United has been trying for years, but the spectre of the soon-to-be-empty $647 millon baseball stadium looms large in the recent past. That stadium got shoved down the throats of DC citizens, and now anything even resembling the use of public funds is verboten in the District. THAT'S why they came to Maryland with their stadium proposal, albeit at an incredibly inopportune time.

Posted by: Str8Red | March 30, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I keep hearing that Maryland was Option 3, but nobody is talking about why Northern Virginia wouldn't work (Option 2). What gives? If the majority of your fans are in NoVa, you have 7 potential municipalities that you could talk to (Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Loundoun counties, Fairfax, Falls Church and Alexandria cities). While Loudoun and PW are probably too far out, why aren't we pushing harder on getting the team into Virginia? I would go to a lot more games if I didn't have to go to the cesspool they are in now or all the way to PG county.

Posted by: daandre3 | March 30, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The United will draw for all of 2009 about the same number of fans the Nats will draw in April, so the comparison doesn't help your cause.

The United's ownership made a bad offer to the city of DC, it got rejected, now the same offer should get the same result in PG. For the long term health of the franchise they need to stay centrally located in DC and in order for that to happen ownership is going to have to pay for their own stadium design.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 30, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

powerboater -- DC united was going to build the stadium themselves, if Will McF would have gotten the rights to develop Poplar Point his way. DC rejected that, and now the contractor they choose to develop PP pulled out. So to me the big loser is DC

I'm in agreement that localities should not be paying for stadiums. What needs to be made clear is how exactly the state/team plan to do this. None of this economist speak. Put in terms the common man can understand and lets decide then.

Are you against the team being in PG, or just against MD footing the bill?

Posted by: torrey151 | March 30, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Why are elected officials even voting on whether to fund the stadium design, this should be covered 100% by team ownership.
______________________________________________

You have no idea what you are talking about. Studies to determine the feasibility of soccer specific stadiums in Portland, Oregon, and Chester, Pennsylvania were funded by local government. Why should Prince George's County be any different?
___________________________________________

The United's ownership made a bad offer to the city of DC, it got rejected, now the same offer should get the same result in PG. For the long term health of the franchise they need to stay centrally located in DC and in order for that to happen ownership is going to have to pay for their own stadium design.
___________________________________________

Haven't you been paying attention? United's proposal for Poplar Point was substantially different than for Prince George's County because United wanted to subsidize most of the cost of building the stadium in return for the development rights for Poplar Point. That proposal worked for Mayor Williams but, after he was elected, Mayor Fenty took it off the table. Aside from Poplar Point, there is no viable location for a soccer stadium in the District and that's the reality of the situation.

Posted by: Stevenho | March 30, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Building stadiums in Northern Virginia has been tried by Cook and by baseball. The answer is a solid NO.

DC United has stated that it was clear to them that Virginia was out for both cost of land near Metro (already developed) and the opposition to further traffic congestion.

Maryland is aggressively going after transportation based development, since they haven't Balstoned many of their Metro stations yet. That's why a stadium near a Maryland-located metro is so attractive to the Stadium Authority and the Economic Development Agency. And it's not just about soccer. It's about having a sweet mid-sized stadium available to the Stadium Authority located right next to the District and Virginia. That means revenue to the state, and, through taxes, to PG County.

It's a bad time to be talking development, even bond-based as this is, but it's also a bad time to be short-sighted if you are a Maryland resident.

Posted by: seahawkdad | March 30, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"Are you against the team being in PG, or just against MD footing the bill?"

The United need to stay in DC and pay for their own stadium. The ownership group seems much more concerned about mixed use development, I just want a soccer stadium that is in a central location with easy access.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 30, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

If you're going to claim to be a fan and weigh in on the issues, at least call the team by its name. It's not "the" United. It's DC United of just plain United.

Mayor Fenty wanted to make a political statement by opposing something the previous administration and Councilmember Barry were both in favor of. Both were behind the beginnings of exploring the Poplar Point deal.

Mayor Fenty has dropped the ball because now, rather than getting a new anchor and new tax revenue generating neighborhood, there will be nothing.

Posted by: Cavan9 | March 30, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

This bill is not authorizing the funding of the stadium. In it's current context, the bill is simply authorizing a second study. Why would anyone oppose that? What's the harm in doing a study? The only answer appears to be the opponents are afraid of the results that they may find. Opposing this makes no sense to me whether you're against the stadium or not..

Posted by: blackandred777 | March 30, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I would like to hear from the opposition on blackandred777's comment. It's a valid point. Why oppose a study? If your against the bill, a study does you no harm. Where's the beef?

Posted by: Gambrills4 | March 30, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Never mind my inquiry. It seems that logic prevailed.

D.C. United Study Bill Approved by House Committee 17-7

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/annapolis/

Posted by: blackandred777 | March 30, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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