Yellow Card for Stadium Plan in Md.
Here we go again [“P.G. United? Co-Owner May Move D.C. Soccer Team to Prince George’s,” Metro, Feb. 13].
With the news that D.C. United is planning to move to Prince George’s County and build a 24,000-seat stadium there, I can’t help but think that county officials could have learned something from the FedEx Field debacle.
Sports marketers promise all sorts of economic benefits, but look at the neighborhoods around the NFL stadium and you’ll see how hollow those promises are. FedEx Field is a self-contained facility that fans visit and leave; they contribute little to the surrounding area, except for the noise and pollution from their cars. The proposed soccer stadium may be built near a Metro station, but is there any reason to believe that the prospect of a long subway ride will make fans more willing to linger and spend money? Aren’t they more likely to satisfy their hunger and thirst inside the stadium and head straight home after a game?
Advocates of the new project claim it will pay for itself, although D.C. United co-owner Victor MacFarlane has acknowledged that Maryland will be “on the hook” if the stadium does not meet revenue pro8jections [Metro, Feb. 17]. Even if the team’s assumptions prove true, loans issued for the new facility would affect the state’s credit rating and potentially increase its cost of borrowing. You can’t have it all, and if the state extends its credit to a soccer stadium, it will have less to spend in other areas.
But there’s no need to argue about whether investing public resources in a new soccer stadium makes sense. There is a simple way to test the team owners’ assumptions and claims of economic benefit.
Before Maryland officials consider whether to support this project, they should commission an impartial third party to analyze the economic costs and benefits of the public investment in FedEx field. The University of Maryland would be one possible candidate for the job. Such a study could determine whether the state’s investment in the football stadium paid off for the general public and offer an indication of whether the proposed new soccer stadium could fulfill the promises being made for it.
And if the state ultimately decides to support the venture, studying the FedEx Field experience would give both Maryland and Prince George’s officials information that would help them negotiate the best terms for the soccer stadium.
Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Before we build another state-supported stadium, let’s take the time to be sure this is the kind of history we really want to repeat.
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