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Soccer Showdown Coming in Md. Legislature

Rosalind Helderman

Our colleague Steven Goff is reporting at the Post's Soccer Insider blog that D.C. United is organizing a bus and car caravan to transport fans from RFK stadium to Annapolis for tomorrow's hearing on a bill to provide financing for a new Prince George's stadium for the team.

We can report that those who oppose government financing for the stadium are rallying as well. Alerts have gone out to several civic groups that have expressed opposition to the idea, including the Prince George's group People for Change. Longtime county anti-tax activist Judy Robinson said she is uncertain how many people either side will draw, given that the hearing will occur during a workday.

She said she plans to address the committee, asking aloud how many of the D.C. United supporters who attend live in Prince George's.

State lawmakers have reported being deluged with emails from fans of the team, urging their support for the bill. Most of the letters have come from out of state, many from out of the country--as far away as Germany and Spain. One senator said his office had received 500 emails as of last week--but only four from his own district. (Team supporters say that's kind of the point: If the stadium were built, they say, fans would flock from all over to attend games.)

The House of Delegates' Appropriations Committee will hear the bill, sponsored by Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George's). Under the bill, as now written, the Maryland Stadium Authority could float up to $178 million in bonds to pay for a Prince George's stadium. The bill says the team would pay unspecified rent for use of the state-owned facility.

In public comments, team leaders have said they will pay 25 percent of the costs of the stadium. The other 75 percent would be paid by tax revenue generated at the stadium site, they say. They have also indicated the bill will likely change dramatically as it makes it way through the legislative process and told the county council last week their plan involves $47 million in bonds floated by the county.

Team executives continue to insist all of the government's costs will be covered by new revenue at the site. But opponents worry if the revenue falls short, taxpayers will be on the hook. Talk is flying in Annapolis that the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority have been conducting intense negotiations; one option emerging would involve legislation merely enabling talks to continue but eliminating any reference in law to the state floating bonds for the time being.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 16, 2009; 11:26 AM ET
Categories:  Prince George's County , Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

Hey it's not kind of the point, it is the point! We crashed the servers trying to let the state of Maryland know that if this stadium is built, people will be buying season tickets, and spending their money in PG County. I live in Arlington VA and will be there. This is an opportunity to have a World Class team build a home in Maryland that will be a destination for soccer fans for generations!

Posted by: DadRyan | March 16, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

DadRyan is exactly right. I live in Alexandria, have had DCU season tickets since 2000 and will gladly drive or Metro into PG County to the games.

Posted by: griffin1108 | March 16, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

This area makes any stadium proposal more interesting. The economist's argument against state-funded stadium essentially boils down this: "stadiums don't create economic activity, they move it within a jurisdiction."

Well, in an area like this there are 3 distinct jurisdictions. As a MD resident and soccer fan I have spent many hundreds of dollars in DC, because that is where RFK is. If the MD legislators float these bonds I will spend them in MD.

The Delegates should see that it is better if the support for the stadium is mostly from outside of their district.

Posted by: mmcginnis351 | March 16, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I live in Harrisonburg and attend JMU and I attend every game. What draws me to the area of DC is the soccer team, why would I not want to live in the area that has the team there when I graduate and need a job.

Posted by: SexyOffender | March 16, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I sent a letter to local representatives talking about how I and my family will be traveling to EVERY game once I get out of grad school in May. I will consider buying a house around the stadium just because it will be a great investment.

Team pays 25% - check
Remaining 75% generated by bonds and tax revenue generated by stadium - check
Agreement that if there is a shortcoming, McFarland would pay for remainder out of revenue generated by leasing of his developments around the stadium - NEED IT.

I think a lot of the older segment of the public sees "soccer stadium" and immediately thinks "soccer doesn't work in the US." It would just take someone to point out to them that it has worked since 1996 and is creating more revenue each year. There is a reason why multi-national corporation-owning billionaires and millionaires have invested in it in recent years.

The first step in this process is educating the masses to stop seeing where they think MLS is at this point and where it actually is...

Posted by: dpowellutkedu | March 16, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The United fans clashing with PG County police will be more fun to watch than the games.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | March 16, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, I and my family will gladly travel to Prince George's County from our home in Virginia, to spend our money at every home game that DC United plays.

Posted by: swwj | March 16, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

note to MD reps

"Change the Plans, request more money, Request a minimum season ticket purchase, but don't kill our Dream"

Lets remember to remind these folks who are opposing this thing, why it makes sense and why there money will not be at risk. We must remember that they have valid concerns. Lets put those concerns to rest, if we don't then some writers (is there a fish in the air) will try to manipulate things in there favor.

bring signs, banners, etc.

Lets show them that soccer fans are diffrent then other sports fans, we do not want a hand out, we are willing to pay our share, even if that means increased season tickets.

Posted by: Norteno4life | March 16, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Since when is PG County so NIMBY. Prince George's County needs a positive community investment like DC United.

Posted by: MBUSA | March 16, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"In public comments, team leaders have said they will pay 25 percent of the costs of the stadium. The other 75 percent would be paid by tax revenue generated at the stadium site, they say."

They say? What kind of journalism is this? This sounds like something a 5th grader would write.

I agree with dpowellutkedu. United needs to step up and announce that if there is a revenue shortfall then their ownership will ante up. It will squelch a great deal of the opposition.

I also agree with dpowellutkedu's point about the role ignorance of soccer/MLS's progress plays in this. If the opposition was aware of the financial backing MLS has I believe a great deal of this "what if the league folds" talk would go way. The knowledgeable soccer crowd knows that MLS is not going to fold. The league momentum is clearly going in the other direction.

Lastly, one problem I think United and it's fans have and I don't have an answer for is the opposition to this because they just hate the game of soccer. How many transparent posts have there been in the past two weeks where the author states the opposition as one problem within the proposal but further reading clearly indicates they have a problem with the game itself. Some have actually been bold enough to state their opposition to the sport without semantics.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 16, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Barra Brava, Screaming Eagles, and La Norte please bring your drums so we can drown out the opponents voices tomorrow. DC United cheers are so much more pleasant to listen to than a bunch a screaming idiots.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 16, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Longtime county anti-tax activist Judy Robinson said...she plans to address the committee, asking aloud how many of the D.C. United supporters who attend live in Prince George's.

By Rosalind Helderman | March 16, 2009; 11:26 AM ET

Is Judy anti-tax dollars that would be generated by a new stadium complex? Because I guarantee you 75-90% of the people going to events in the county (ahem, Redskins, ahem) don't live in the county. By all means, get this proposal shot down. DC United will leave the area, the Redskins will go back to the voteless D*strict, and the county will see no revenue at all.

Thx,

Jay!

Posted by: jayrockers | March 16, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Well said Jayrockers

Posted by: croftonpost | March 16, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Many of the supporters from out of the state and out of the country are exactly the people who will come to Prince George's County and introduce new tax money while staying in PGC hotels and eating at PGC restaurants during their trip to watch D.C. United. My family and I being one of many.

Posted by: UnitedFanInTX | March 16, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I live in Virginia (Stafford) and have had half-season tickets DC United for my two sons and I since we moved here in 2003. I spend well over $2000 dollars annually on soccer tickets and in the stadium at RFK. I will gladly spend that money in PG County at a nice new stadium (as long as we can still tailgate). I have attended other events in PG, and the drive to the proposed stadium sites is definitely within range for us. Unfortuneately I cannot make it to the rally tommorrow due to work. Vamos United!!

Posted by: RCMII | March 16, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

It wonderful to see soo!!! many out of towners bestowing the wonders and benefits of running into Prince George's County sending their money, wearing out the area infrastructure and leaving, (like we are being PIMPed). I for one live in the area, where traffic is blocked-off and you have to use an alternative route to get to church. Or as a resident we were not allowed to walk to other stadium games, even if you lived down the block. Or people parking in front of your house to avoid the parking fees. We have one stadium in this area already we don't need two stadiums. Why not market to get the option back to build in Virginia or DC in your backyard, seems more convenient. I haven't heard any clamoring from the residents in Prince George's County about a need for a soccor team nor another stadium. I didn't see anyone from Prince George's County trying to push off a stadium in your backyard when Virginia and DC were candidates for the stadium, that would have been rude and presumptuous. The one stadium that we have stays idle until inseason, what taxes or jobs is that creating? I vote no for anymore stadiums or disrupton to my live!

Posted by: LOCKS | March 16, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Locks,

The soccer plan and stadium are nothing like the Redskins stadium. I am a die hard fan of both the Redskins and DC United and I am familiar with each respective plan or stadium. DC United will not be playing during your church going time as they mainly play at night specifically Saturday. They are planning on a mixed use development that involves much more than a stadium (hotels, restaurants, shops etc.). The Redskins never promised anything resembling that and never pursued anything like that. Lastly, they are bringing in other teams and events to fill the stadium on days/seasons that they do not participate so it won't sit empty anywhere near as often as Fedex Field.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 16, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line as a nation we are demanding fiscally responsible and accountability. I don't see purchasing a stadium as good business sense from anybody's standpoint right now, the hold country is struggling. Layoffs are looming to balance a deficiet budget, me are as poor as a church mouse, and persons are trying to (pressure) our representatives to spend money we don't have. I didn't see this much fevor in DC or Virginia when it was in others backyard? Again if you want a stadium built lobby to have DC United return and consider your state. Virginia and DC were smart in handling this matter, this is just the wrong time to consider such a purchase, most citizen would agree!

Posted by: LOCKS | March 17, 2009 1:08 AM | Report abuse

It is my state and I have already let my voice be heard. DC wanted the stadium built but they got greedy and destroyed the deal.

Posted by: croftonpost | March 17, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Locks, I undeerstand your concern. Maryland bonds are rated at Triple-A: it's not existing tax revenue, but the issuing of bonds that wil fund this development, with taxes on it's use tagged to pay those bonds back. You'll pay nothing if you don't go there. nd the "there" is nothing like the 85,000-seat mothership at FedEx Field, floating in it's sea of parking spaces. It's a 24,000-seat urban stadium, planned to fit amid retail, business and residential. There'll be a parking deck, likely full on game-day Saturdays and during other non-soccer events, but primary access will be via Metro. I'll miss the pre-game tailgates that all that sea of parking around RFK affords, but that means more of my money being spent in the area (and the taxes on those dollars going to repay the bonds AND staying in maryland instead of going to the District). Beyond the construction jobs this project will bring to the county, there are those retail, businesses and homes that will add to the economic base in PG.
I WISH the stadium was coming closer to me in Montgomery County, just like I wish the District had treated United as the good corporate citizen they've been for 12 years, but that's not happened.
Please, look at the proposal, ask questions about the things that bother you, but be open to the idea that Victor MacFarlane is not Dan Snyder (and Will Chang is not Jack Kent Cooke), and that the Maryland Stadium Commission's study and recommendations may have merit.
The people in Ward 8 are the big losers in this, as this development will not be happening at Poplar Point, and though the team's community outreach will continue throughout the Metro DC area, the economic development will benefit your neighborhood, not theirs.

Posted by: StevanF | March 17, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

I am the Judy Robinson quoted and you don't pay taxes in my county. If ALL season tickets will pay for the bonds ($195 million) with expanded ticket costs ($2,000-$3,000 a year, if not more), we welcome you! If DC United will pay for its own stadium as Red Bull New York is doing, we welcome you! If DC United will indemnify Prince Georgians against loss, we welcome you. Our County is raising property taxes and firing policemen. Studies show stadiums don't generate income or economic development and DC United is no exception. LOOK AT FED EX and WHAT'S AROUND IT! FLOAT YOUR OWN BONDS AND YOU ARE WELCOME IN MY GREAT COUNTY - DON'T ASK MY 83 YEAR OLD NEIGHBOR TO PAY MORE TAXES FOR A BILLIONAIRE VENTURE CAPITALIST WHO CAN RAISE HIS OWN MONEY.

Posted by: robinsonawjr | March 18, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The owners DC United (Victor MacFarlane, Will Chang, are wealthy venture capitalist who raise money and develop for a living. Jack Kent Cooke built Fed Ex and paid for it; We are only asking that DC United billionaires do the same. They are scamming voters and legislators should see the ploy. Below is Will Chang's profile from DC United website. Does it sound like he needs money from property owners and school children to fund his stadium?

WILLIAM CHANG
DC UNITED

As Chairman of Westlake International Group, William H.C. Chang is the driving force behind the company's vision and direction. Westlake is a privately held diversified investment company with operations in the United States, China, Latin America, Japan, India, and Canada. Investments span private and public equities, including venture capital, professional sports, media and entertainment, emerging technologies, life sciences, supply chain management, and real estate.

Mr. Chang is an active investor in early stage technology companies through his Edge Venture Capital Fund, with a particular focus on nurturing next generation mobile, social networking, new media and entertainment technologies.

Mr. Chang's associations and affiliations include: the Asian Business League (Founding Chairman); California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy (Director); California International Relations Foundation (Director); Chinese American Association of Commerce (Founder); City Club of San Francisco (Founding Governor); Harvard University (Asia Center and Committee on University Resources); The Asia Foundation (Trustee); and World Presidents' Organization.

In addition to D. C. United, Mr. Chang is also active in managing San Francisco Giants Baseball Club (Executive Committee).

Mr. Chang has a bachelor's degree in Economics from Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Posted by: robinsonawjr | March 18, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I would like to poll DC United fans.

How many of you are willing to pay from $100 - $200 more a ticket per game to build the stadium?

How much do you spend now at DC stadium? Do you stay for dinner or go home after the games? Do you shop around the stadium? Do you spend the night in hotels? Do you bring your relatives and spend a lot of time in DC.

You see, we heard all of this before on Fed Ex - the stadium has decimated the area, and it actually does us back $10-12 million in taxes I CAN CALCULATE AND SEE!

Posted by: robinsonawjr | March 18, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

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