Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Kicked to the Curb: Soccer Stadium Blues

Victor MacFarlane makes no secret of his dismay. The wealthy developer who bought the D.C. United soccer team and devoted a couple of years of his life to building a soccer stadium and residential-retail development in Southeast Washington feels double-crossed.

After all, it was the D.C. government that came to him a few years ago and asked him to plan and build a soccer stadium at Poplar Point, the picturesque spot where the Anacostia River and Washington Channel come together. But that was a different administration, a mayor--Tony Williams--who loved the big deal, the dramatic gesture, who fancied himself a master builder. Now, there's a new guy in charge, and Adrian Fenty came to office as the dynamo who focuses on the little stuff, the neighborhood concerns. Fenty was the guy who opposed the city's new baseball stadium every step of the way.

So while it came as a big surprise to MacFarlane when Fenty pulled the plug on the cozy sole-source deal that the developer had been talking about with the Williams staff, it was actually entirely in keeping with Fenty's approach to governing. Under tremendous pressure from neighborhood groups to pull back on the practice of making sweetheart deals with developers, Fenty has opened the Poplar Point development process to any and all, and the District is now fielding proposals from various parties.

MacFarlane says D.C. United won't be one of those parties. The city's new concept of the size and scope of the development precludes the deal that MacFarlane spent years working out, and the developer says he's out. Except that maybe he's in: Moments after telling a meeting of Washington Post editors and reporters that he won't participate in the mayor's competition to get the development rights for Poplar Point, MacFarlane says that he may well team up with another developer to put in a proposal.

That's not the only contradiction in MacFarlane's current position. He is appalled and frustrated by the Fenty administration's actions, yet he still says he wants to and can work with the mayor's people to get a stadium done. MacFarlane has hired a consultant to identify suburban sites for a soccer field--and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot wants the state to make a good offer--yet MacFarlane says he is resolutely an urban developer and he above all wants to keep the team in the District.

"Our name is D.C. United," says team president Kevin Payne.

On one hand, the MacFarlane team says that they've looked at every possible stadium site in the District and have concluded, as Major League Baseball did, that they are all severely flawed. On the other hand, MacFarlane says he's open to building a soccer stadium on the grounds of the RFK Stadium complex--even if Redskins owner Dan Snyder decides to build a new football stadium at the same place. "There's enough land there that both stadiums could be built," MacFarlane says, and he's obviously looked into that possibility.

(Amazingly, the D.C. Armory site adjacent to RFK is considered off-limits for new construction because the Armory, a vile pit of a building that begs to be blown to smithereens, is landmarked as a historic structure--yet another example of the city's willy-nilly preservation mania.)

The developer's frustration is understandable. He came into the city, bought a team that doesn't make money, and volunteered to pay for a stadium--putting him in the category of sports owner as good citizen, like Abe Pollin, rather than sports owner as hard-charging dealmaker, like Major League Baseball. For his troubles, MacFarlane gets a boatload of uncertainty and a hobbled relationship with the mayor.

But from Fenty's perspective, there are two issues at work that trump the desire for a permanent home for the soccer team: 1) The mayor wants to show his supporters among the various neighborhood groups around town that he is operating above board and is opening development opportunities to all, not just to a hand-picked, sole-sourced rich builder. 2) Fenty is under significant pressure from environmentalists--another important piece of the coalition that elected him--to reserve far more of the Poplar Point site as parkland than MacFarlane or Williams had originally planned for.

"They want less density, less dollars, less profit and more parkland," MacFarlane says of the city's new course on Poplar Point. After he spent years planning for an 80-acre development on a 150-acre site, the builder is now being told to come up with plans for a 40-acre development on a 110-acre site.

So MacFarlane is playing the age-old sports owners' game of threatening to move. Except that he's too honest and straightforward to play the game right. So he's talking to suburban governments that would be thrilled to have United call them home, even as MacFarlane still sings a love song to the big city. And he has forsworn the notion of moving his team to another metro area entirely.

MacFarlane has become a darling of many Ward 8 activists, including council member Marion Barry. But while the developer has done admirable work persuading the community of the value his project could bring to Anacostia, he has neglected to work the council and Fenty administration with the same verve and conciliatory manner. Some D.C. council members still don't see much value in a soccer stadium--even one built largely with private money. One big stadium project is more than enough for them (though we all know how fast they'd come running if Snyder were to announce he's ready to come home to Washington.)

"We're going to get a stadium," Payne says, and of that there can be little doubt. The District would be smart to embrace MacFarlane and assure him that a site for a stadium will be part of the Poplar Point plan--though there's no particular reason the stadium has to be on what is now federal parkland. There's plenty of privately-owned--and city-owned--empty land immediately adjacent to the park.

Despite MacFarlane's bluster, he's a dealer, and when the time comes for him to work together with whatever other developers win the right to take on the Poplar Point project, MacFarlane will be ready to do business. What you're hearing from him now is an effort to hold onto as much of the overall project as he can keep for himself. But just as he is working nicely with other developers on his projects near the baseball stadium, he'll do the same for his soccer field. The rest is just tactics.

By Marc Fisher |  October 17, 2007; 7:40 AM ET
Previous: Taxi Tea Leaves: Will Fenty Save Zones? | Next: Blogger of the Month: Prince of Petworth

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Fisher is hooked on this story. It's like a bad addiction. Maybe an intervention is in order.

Posted by: DirtyHarry | October 17, 2007 8:27 AM

While Fenty has been a major disappointment, he is totally right on this, and he was totally right about the baseball stadium, which has LOSER written all over it, and is likely to cool any appetite for such projects for quite some time.
.

Posted by: gitarre | October 17, 2007 8:55 AM

Fenty's right alright. Why house the poor and generate millions in tax revenue and create jobs when you can have a nice little park for the homeless to feed the ducks and watch the sunsets?

Posted by: Who'sRunningThisNutHouse | October 17, 2007 9:07 AM

Bye bye United!

Please go to the burbs and take your whiny fans with you.

Posted by: To the burbs | October 17, 2007 9:20 AM

these comments are silly. sports franchises are one of the things that bring life to a city, especially ones that have a good draw and play multiple games. i don't like the idea of paving over all of poplar point- green space also defines livable and desirable communities- but this has been a team that has been a good neighbor and tax payer for years in DC. It should stay here.

Posted by: RFK Resident | October 17, 2007 9:28 AM

I don't remember electing Franchot to be in the business of giving my MD dollars away to sports teams!

Posted by: RoseG | October 17, 2007 9:32 AM

I am not a soccer fan, but the stadium IS a good deal for the city and an important economic and livability catalyst just as the ballpark is. These places offer so much more than dollars and cents. Would we say the same about the Kennedy Center? That place is incredibly important to DC despite a location that precludes economic development.

Posted by: smirkman | October 17, 2007 9:38 AM

Doesn't make money? DC United turns a profit on a yearly basis, mostly because the player payroll is very low by MLS rules, but they still turn a profit. McFarlane has always played straight with DC concerning the team, the stadium and the plans around the proposed site. Mayor Fentry didn't play straight with him. He has every right to be pissed off.

If DC doesn't want the team we'll be more then happy to welcome them to Prince Georges County and take all the development and excitment that will come with them.

Posted by: EricS | October 17, 2007 9:57 AM

For once it seems like Marc actually did some research on this topic before spouting off about it....Anyway, like a bad Spades player, Fenty reneged on this deal. But that's life in the big leagues and MacFarlane will just have to work with that.

It troubles me more if "neighborhood groups" and "environmental groups" from outside of the area have such a strong influence over Fenty. Between Anacostia Park, Ft. Dupont, Ft. Stanton and others, we in southeast are swimming in underutilized parkland. We the need decent development and housing that others take for granted and the DC United plan is a good starting point for discussion.

Posted by: Christopher | October 17, 2007 9:58 AM

EricS -- do you have a source for your claim that DCU turns a profit on a yearly basis? That's contrary to everything I've heard, including public statements from the team. Indeed, that's a major motivation towards getting the stadium: DCU receives no money whatsoever from either concessions or parking at RFK (the DC Sports & Entertainment Commission gets it all); that, plus income from other uses of the facility, is the difference between profitable and not.

Posted by: Bootsy | October 17, 2007 10:07 AM

EricS, actually, United does not make a profit, in large part due to the economics of RFK. It's rent is too costly, and United doesn't get any day of game revenue streams (or they get minuscule ones) from parking or concessions.

RoseG, if you look at it further, Franchot is looking out for you. Maryland needs money. They can get that by finding new sources of revenue. A stadium, associated development, and non-Marylanders bringing in money and spending it in Maryland. Or he can raise your taxes. Also, United is building the stadium, not the state.

Posted by: Kim | October 17, 2007 10:08 AM

"Fenty was the guy who opposed the city's new baseball stadium every step of the way."

Woah. Don't forget Catania. He was way more forceful of an opponent of the stadium than Fenty.

Posted by: Anon | October 17, 2007 10:14 AM

Come on Fenty's allies wanted in and he dropped the plans like a hot potato. He wanted his boys to get there share like any good mayor should. He is just a corrupt as the Mayor for life and other big city mayors he just is smart enought to hide it better.

Another reason DC residents dont deserve voting representation in Congress!

Posted by: Fenty Corrupt U bet | October 17, 2007 10:17 AM

Marc:

Thanks for reminding us about the MacFarlane offer to build at the RFK site. RFK makes much more sense as it is on Metro and near expressways, with plenty of room for the Redskins should they choose to return from exile. Poplar point would not only mean another public land giveaway but millions in DC-funded infrastructure improvements of use only on match days.

Posted by: Mike Licht | October 17, 2007 10:26 AM

EricS you have no idea what you're talking about, another "United can do no wrong" fan.

Posted by: What? | October 17, 2007 10:28 AM

Zones :( Meters! :)

where's the taxi post, Marc? GET ON IT!

guess I'll be going out in DC more now - no smoking AND metered cabs!

Posted by: DC | October 17, 2007 10:42 AM

Ok, if DCU is losing money every year, then why, if they were to be put up for sale, would there be a bidding war to own them?

No major professional sports team loses money, that's why leagues are expanding, no team stays on the table for any length of time and when they sell, it's for a substantial profit for the owner.

To hear a pro sports owner cry poverty, well that just means you're spending too much in some areas and wasting money. What kind of owner works a deal that the team receives $0 from parking and $0 from concessions when it's his team that's allowing DC and Aramark to make money.

Advertising isn't cheap either, a good owner will sell enough advertising to pay for the majority of expenses with ticket sales to pay for the players. Merchandising, well, there's profit built in right there.

DCU will claim to lose money so they can avoid paying taxes. It's how you cook the books. You could say the Redskins are losing money too, if you don't count the column with the income from tickets and parking.

Posted by: No More Sports | October 17, 2007 10:44 AM

Good article Marc. You hit alot of good points and you are right DCU deserves a stadium. The Nat's got theirs, let's give United a park.

Posted by: Chris | October 17, 2007 10:48 AM

Good article Marc. You hit alot of good points and you are right DCU deserves a stadium. The Nat's got theirs, let's give United a park.

Posted by: Chris | October 17, 2007 10:48 AM

Regarding infrastructure, I'd like to see the infrastructure dollar requirements on development of the area with and without a stadium. My guess is that the bulk of the infrastructure investment will be required for whatever is developed.

Unless, of course, the whole 110 acres is turned into parkland and Ward 8, once more, gets zilch.

And, Marc, nice thoughtful and balanced piece of writing. Thanks.

Posted by: seahawkdad | October 17, 2007 10:52 AM

fffff

Posted by: ffff | October 17, 2007 11:00 AM

NoMoreSports, your name should be, NoMoreCrystalMeth, because you have no clue what you're talking about.

DC United could be a profitable team if they were in a teamed owned facility, but as it is now, they are losing money in the millions every year.

Their only real revenue streams are ticket and merch sales. Any ad revenue most likely goes straight back into team advertising. They pay out a huge stadium use fee, pay for gameday stadium staffing, and receive none of the concessions or parking fees.

As is often the case, people like you open their mouths and spew nothing but their own ignorance.

Posted by: SWWJ | October 17, 2007 11:09 AM

Has anyone who doesn't live in Ward 8 ever gone to Anacostia to go shopping or enjoy a park? In ten years in the district, I haven't. Anacostia doesn't need more parks, it needs development, and most importantly, a reason for outside people to come and spend money (a stadium).

Posted by: NW guy | October 17, 2007 11:25 AM

Sign the petition to keep DC United in DC!
http://www.petitiononline.com/dcunited/petition.html

Posted by: bheiss | October 17, 2007 11:47 AM

NW guy, why would you want to build something that people are only going to visit 16 days a year? I don't know why United fans think that 16 games of soccer brings jillions of dollars to an area.

Posted by: United doesn't bring that much money | October 17, 2007 11:48 AM

Marc,

Thanks for the update on the stadium situation.

This whole "Stadium Deal" has been a long and drawn-out process, most especially when viewed from the perspective of a DCU supporter such as myself. I appreciate that you took the time to help illuminate the several viewpoints that must all be satisfied for this to come to a successful conclusion.

Mr. MacFarlane seems justified in his frustration, as Mayor Fenty seems justified in making the bidding a more open process, especially considering some of the development deals recently made by his administration, and most especially in contrast to the deal the previous administration reached with Major League Baseball for the Nationals ballpark. Your article correctly identifies the fact that these negotiations are more about politics than they are about development, which fact is often forgotten.

Anyway, I thank you again, and look forward to the day when United opens their new stadium, whether it be in the District, or elsewhere.

Posted by: DCUInWheaton | October 17, 2007 11:49 AM

"NW guy, why would you want to build something that people are only going to visit 16 days a year? I don't know why United fans think that 16 games of soccer brings jillions of dollars to an area."

actually these projects are much more than that. the stadium, as with many of the other facilities built around mls, would be configured for concerts, too, as well as for other events. if you look at frisco in texas or any of the other new soccer stadiums, they're set up to be used continuously, not just for 16 games a year (and even this ends up being much higher-- dc played in 3 extra tournaments this year, plus the open cup, plus friendlies-- so that easily jumps to around 30 games a year).

not to mention, the stadium isn't the only part of the development-- those other sites wouldn't sit fallow on non-game days.

Posted by: dvkenned | October 17, 2007 11:56 AM

Mr. Fisher, Also what gets many upset is that Mr. Fenty (a week before his big mayoral election) came into RFK and pretty much promised DCU and their fans a stadium at poplar point. Here's the quote:

"Thank you Kevin for this D.C. United jersey and congratulations on your terrific season," Fenty said. "It is great to see over 20,000 fans here at RFK supporting D.C. United. It is my hope that your fans will soon be coming to your brand new soccer stadium at Poplar Point in Anacostia. World class fans, and a world class team like D.C. United, deserve a world class stadium. And I am going to make it a priority to help you build that stadium. Thank you -- congratulations and good luck to the Black-and-Red!"

-Adrian Fenty on Oct 29 2006 (right before a mayoral elction mind you)

link to full article: http://www.mlsnet.com/news/team_news.jsp?ymd=20061031&content_id=77524&vkey=news_dcu&fext=.jsp&team=t103

Doesn't look like Fenty wants to make it a priority any more, eh? He's just another typical politician who'll say anything to get votes.

Posted by: Hollywood Hulk Hogan | October 17, 2007 11:58 AM

To the person who keeps popping up under different names like "To the burbs" and "United doesn't bring that much money"... SHUT UP!!! DC United is loved in DC, your just a pawn, get over it and leave your negativity out of this.

Posted by: Hey anti DC stadium person, go back to your hole! | October 17, 2007 12:00 PM

You may have heard of it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. And obviously, United in NOT loved by everyone in DC, primarily because of their whiny, crybaby, anti-everything that isn't soccer, you're not smart enough to enjoy soccer attitude. So kiss my a$$

BTW, its you're, not your.

Posted by: Free Speech | October 17, 2007 12:15 PM

I'm not even a soccer fan but this post is just a piece of political crap. Stick to what you are good at Fisher. I did ten minutes of research to contradict a few things you have posted.

Posted by: Donald | October 17, 2007 12:17 PM

Isn't the only reason United isn't making money because the DSEC charges so much for rent and keeps all the concessions/parking?

Posted by: Dave | October 17, 2007 12:18 PM

*crunches a few numbers*
Ticket sales are in the neighborhood of about 22,000 a game, give or take some freebies. That's abotu 400,000 in attendance in a year plus non-league and playoff stuff so lets say about 500,000 in a year. At 30 a ticket, about the average for DCU, that's about 15 mil in revenue. Subtract operating expenses of, say 5-6 mil a year for players, coasches, travel, advertising and other such stuff and you still have around 8 mil a year for the stadium and profits.

If someone has some figures on what it costs to run RFK for the DCU season I would love to see them as I have a hard time beleiving that DCU would sign a deal that would leave them penniless. DCU and the Stadium Authority need each other too badly to go looking to screw each other.

Posted by: EricS | October 17, 2007 12:18 PM

It should also be noted that the DCU plan includes a hotel that is part of the stadium, retail outlets, office space and low income housing. MacFarlanes plan would revitalize that whole Ward, provide jobs and bring in tax revenue.

Posted by: DirtyHarry | October 17, 2007 12:29 PM

I also have so little of a life that I need to play "grammar police" on an internet comment-posting board.

Posted by: Free Speech | October 17, 2007 12:31 PM

I'm going to agree with DVKenned here. I understand the concern (does 16 games justify the cost/effort/etc), but I imagine that with some effort, the stadium could pack in between 80 and 100 events a year. Even if it is just 20k people spending $1 each time they pass through, that means Ward 8 gets an extra $2Mill a year (and obviously I would expect that to be much higher). Nevermind the service jobs it creates...
However, my real point of the first post, was that I'm not going to make a special trip to Anacostia for a new park/strip-mall. I WOULD do that for DC United or a concert, and if I'm pleasantly surprised by the new development/ parks/restaurants etc, then maybe I'd consider visiting more often (thus spending more money).
Urban development usually starts with either a major project (stadium), a slow spread, or through a neighborhood slowly becoming trendy (often starting as a mixed ethnic/gay/artist enclave). The river stops the 2nd and I don't see Anacostia having the third, which means a stadium would be the best bet for finally getting some development in Anacostia.

Posted by: NW Guy | October 17, 2007 12:34 PM

Wait a minute...this article appears to be fair and balanced regarding a DCU stadium...

Who are you and what have you done with Marc Fisher!?!!?

Posted by: JkR | October 17, 2007 12:37 PM

Who had to pay for the baseball/soccer field conversions? If United had to chip in, that eats up your guestimated 8 mil real fast.

Posted by: UVA to RFK | October 17, 2007 12:39 PM

What I wanna know -- and I'm a rabid (and new) DCU fan -- is why is MacFarlane so opposed to lowering the amount of land available for non-stadium development? Is it one of those things where the non-stadium real estate is where the REAL money is, and the stadium is just a (somewhat profitable) marketing ploy?

Posted by: Juan-John | October 17, 2007 12:40 PM

Just curious. Wasn't the baseball stadium supposed to do concerts and other events as well as the 81 games/year played? With them being so close to each other, would you rather go to a 20,000 seat concert in Anacostia or a 40,000 seat concert in view of the Capital? Who gets priority in booking extra events?

Also, people are blindly leaving out the fact that the mayor is asking for proposals with and without stadiums. Where are people seeing "no more stadium in Anacostia?"

Posted by: Missing Something | October 17, 2007 12:41 PM

Missing Something - I agree with your 2nd point, there is still a good chance it could happen without the McFarlane proposal. The only tricky issue is whether DC United would agree to play in a stadium they don't own.
In terms of events, I have no idea who gets preference, although the design and schedule of a soccer stadium seems more conducive to concerts than a baseball stadium. (Then again, I saw Springsteen at Fenway a few years back and it was awesome!)

Posted by: NW Guy | October 17, 2007 12:54 PM

The RFP Fenty put out requested 4 mill SF of devlpoment on 110 acres. MacFarlane's proposal was for 8 million SF, a significant difference, on 150 acres.

That's why DCU is less than thrilled with the bid process, among other reasons.

Posted by: JkR | October 17, 2007 12:59 PM

1. EricS, that amount of money you estimate for operating expenses is exceeded significantly by a number of USL teams. DC United is not close to profitable. They lose several million dollars a year. However, MLS data has shown that when a team is in their own stadium (not paying rent), able to benefit from concessions, able to rent out space for other events, then the team becomes profitable.

2. How ironic that Fenty says he's for local control and decisions--yet the Ward most affected by this is in favor of it (strongly) and Fenty is telling them and Barry to take a leap into the Anacostia.

3. DC United has been working with various DC Governments and administrations to make this happen. And the commitment and competence and integrity apparently isn't there. People keep saying "we're for a stadium" (ala the Fenty quote earlier) and then losing interest or changing their mind.

4. If you look at the details, you can see why this isn't a give-away, why Barry and his Ward is so in favor of it. The DC Government gives up the land and provides infrastructure (water, power, roads). McFarlane builds the stadium along with other stuff (it's a mixed use development effort). It has tons of benefits to the community: jobs, DC govt providing infrastructure into an area that lacks it so others can develop, a magnet for outsiders (with money) to come into the Poplar Point area and spend that money, a spark for further development (does anyone think that stories and restaurants just might spring up along side the stadium?).

The article is unfair. It attempts to make McFarlane appear to be two-faced (threaten to move, other sites being investigated yet only Poplar point will do). Poplar point is a great site--picturesque. It has the space for a stadium, team offices and facilities, and practice facilities. And for other facilities (stores, malls, restaurants, condos) to emerge so it's not just a stadium in the middle of a blighted area but might actually serve as a source of development and a way to provide support the community (and not all areas do those things). So less acreage reduces what can go along with the stadium (less money for McFarlane, less potential development for the area which would displease Barry and the residents, fewer jobs). A move elsewhere probably means major compromises to United--no practice fields or team offices, no or little parking. Yeah, build near RFK (taking out parking and also on a site that hazardous waste issues have been raised about). It's not that there are no suburban options or other options in DC. But after nearly a decade of trying to get a stadium done, DC United has concluded that Poplar Point is a great site and the other options are...well...a big dropoff.

Two conclusions I reach from this situation. First, Fenty isn't going to get things done regardless of what he says. Second, other organizations who look at the district and ask "can we work with them?" have to look at this example and conclude, "here's a good citizen who's been patient, hasn't made threats, worked hard--and then gotten slimed" and decide that moving their business to Peoria or NYC or Atlanta or Richmond will make much more sense.

Posted by: JoeW | October 17, 2007 1:11 PM

Quick not on the concert stuff, it's not very likely that they will be able to lure many shows from either Nissan or Merriweather. Half the stuff at Merriweather are things that Seth assembles on his own, so those aren't moving and Live Nation has no reason to stop putting stuff at a building they own outright, so it's really unlikely that there would be many concerts at either place.

There also aren't many artists who do full stadium shows anymore anyway. The Stones, Springsteen and The Police are about it. Maybe Buffet sometimes.

Posted by: EricS | October 17, 2007 1:13 PM

Baseball teams very rarely let someone host an event during baseball season. They like their field to remain in top condition. Sure Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, etc have a couple of concerts from year to year, but that's the exception, not the norm.

Figure that the new ballpark will have 81 baseball dates (maybe one or two preseason, too) and a maximum of 4 or 5 other major events during the year. Though they can rent out the club levels for parties and such throughout.

Just because they said that there'll be other events at the Nats park, don't count on it.

Posted by: Kim | October 17, 2007 1:18 PM

DC United needs to move to Leesburg area. There are plenty of Latinos and Soccer Families to support the team. Going into RFK to watch games is about as safe as driving a convertible through baghdad.

Posted by: DC United Move Now! | October 17, 2007 1:19 PM

Second, other organizations who look at the district and ask "can we work with them?" have to look at this example and conclude, "here's a good citizen who's been patient, hasn't made threats, worked hard--and then gotten slimed" and decide that moving their business to Peoria or NYC or Atlanta or Richmond will make much more sense.

JoeW
--------------------------------------------

This really is a key point that all folks in and around the District should take note of. Couple this with the baseball deal that the District agreed to and kept revisiting after it was completed. The Council under Williams, and Mayor Fenty (or maybe it was just his influence in the Council) have proven that you can't do honest business with the district. They've shot the District's integrity.

Posted by: Kim | October 17, 2007 1:29 PM

Thanks for the spelling tip, now go away, your not welcome. OH NO! I spelled it wrong again? Looks like some whiny grammar guy is going to correct me!!! DC UNITED 4 EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Punk. Whats worse than whiny soccer fans, whiny grammar guys...

Posted by: EVERYONE loves DC, even you ya big waste of space | October 17, 2007 1:42 PM

Nice article Marc.

Posted by: Larry France | October 17, 2007 1:49 PM

Oops...didn't mean to send yet. All I'm going to say is that if DC wants my business, they'll keep United in the district. If the team goes, then so does my money. I'll be spending it wherever the team is.

Posted by: Larry France | October 17, 2007 1:50 PM

------
So MacFarlane is playing the age-old sports owners' game of threatening to move. Except that he's too honest and straightforward to play the game right.
------

As far as I can tell there have been no threats. There have been actions or examining other offers (as Fenty is doing with the Poplar Point land), but I fail to see how MacFarlane is playing an owner's game. He's looking for the best options for his club. Just as Fenty is looking for the best options for his city. Hopefully something can be negotiated where both parties are content.

If MacFarlane's biggest issues are "that he's too honest and straightforward" then it's a real shame should Fenty's administration looks to be turning away from what MacFarlane's plan offered.

Posted by: Honest | October 17, 2007 1:55 PM

As a United fan, it bothers me to admit that Fenty probably IS right. He's avoiding a sole-source deal and standing up to a developer, while seemingly looking out for the little guys (who elected him, by the way). In the end, MacFarlane will almost certainly agree to a deal that works for him, even if it involves another developer. And the city will get the jobs and tax revenue. Of course, my tune will change if there is no progress on a D.C. stadium in the coming months and United ends up moving out of D.C. Then I'll grab a pitchfork and storm the mayor's office with the Barra Brava!

Posted by: kmg | October 17, 2007 2:04 PM

vamos, vamos united
fenty sucks. every year, the mayor comes out onto the field before the first home game and tells 20,000 people that they will get a new stadium. fenty did the same thing while he knew all along that he wasnt gonig to give it to us. he is a joke. he lies. if he comes to the season opener next time, i doubt hell leave the game without any beer gracing his pussy ass suit

Posted by: la barra | October 17, 2007 2:05 PM

I've been going to RFK since 1964 and have never had a problem. Putting the stadium in Poplar Point will only add to the security of the residents of Ward 8.

Posted by: Chico | October 17, 2007 2:07 PM

Nice article--captures the motives/challenges on all sides quite well.

I think that MD/College Park has a real shot at this thing. Having the Metro access makes it an easier sell.

I think DCU and DC Gov should really look at the RFK site and build the stadium and associated development in the existing lot. As it is, it is developed, though quite poorly, so that the environmental concerns would abate some. Moreover, it will yield nice properties in the Urban core, along mass transit, as well as good and permanent jobs.

Posted by: LovinLiberty | October 17, 2007 2:19 PM

"How ironic that Fenty says he's for local control and decisions--yet the Ward most affected by this is in favor of it (strongly) and Fenty is telling them and Barry to take a leap into the Anacostia."

This self-serving equation of Marion Barry's interests and the interests of Ward 8 is disingenuous to say the least.

Fenty is taking a principled stand on this issue, whether you agree with the principles or not. I think Fisher captures this fairly well:

1. Disinclination to work out exclusive "sweetheart" deals with developers.

2. Commitment to neighborhood development over top-down imposition of master plans.

3. Improvement, expansion, and local control of DC parkland (environmentalism).

DC United fans are ranting here and elsewhere about how unprincipled Fenty is. Moreover, they're implying that he is corrupt-- which is an absolutely self-defeating, not to say inaccurate and stupid, way of lobbying for their little playpen of a stadium. (The irony that they're accusing Fenty of corruption while Marion "he may not be perfect, but he's perfect for DC" Barry, famous for cronyism and favor-trading, is their hero can't possibly be lost on anyone.)

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 2:21 PM

"As a United fan, it bothers me to admit that Fenty probably IS right. He's avoiding a sole-source deal and standing up to a developer, while seemingly looking out for the little guys (who elected him, by the way)."

There you go. You soccer fans want to publicize your cause: do it honorably, instead of impugning Fenty with the charge of corruption.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 2:22 PM

The reason DC United "doesn't make money" is because they don't get the typical money-making revenues other teams get from concessions at the stadium, etc. If they had their own stadium, DC United would liekly be the most profitable team in MLS.

Profitability is tied to owning the stadium and controlling the revenues from it - that's why MLS has made stadiums a key part of league expansion.

Posted by: Dave | October 17, 2007 2:27 PM

Please explain how Barry's interests are self serving?

Posted by: DirtyHarry | October 17, 2007 2:32 PM

Mr. Fisher is a moron about soccer and still has room to be a moron about DC history. Multi-talented.

Posted by: Brendan | October 17, 2007 2:44 PM

"Please explain how Barry's interests are self serving?"

Are you kidding? Take your pick.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 2:49 PM

That was supposed to hyperlink to www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/barry/timeline.htm

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 2:50 PM

And I don't think that timeline includes later dubiousness like the Donahue Peebles business.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 2:51 PM

The most sensible thing Fisher has written on the topic-- and one that explicitly says "[t]he District would be smart to embrace MacFarlane and assure him that a site for a stadium will be part of the Poplar Point plan"-- and soccer fans are still calling Fisher a "moron."

The arrogance that has come from DC's leverage within MLS has left a lot of you completely baffled by the discovery that DC United is a very small fry, even within the 68.3 square miles of the District.

I have a gut feeling that most of the insane accusations are coming from Virginians who see all District politicians as coming from the same muck, and can't manage to understand why on earth the backroom deals can't be extended to their little hobby.

All this would have been a lot easier to resolve if MacFarlane, United, and the soccer crowd had recognized the need to have multiple possible sites for better bargaining leverage. Seems to me that all other MLS teams have taken that approach-- what makes DC United so special?

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 3:00 PM

Don, please explain how Barry's interests are self-serving in this particular case. I think everyone is aware of Marion Barry's troubles, but please back up your insinuations on the matter of Poplar Point. What does he personally have to gain from this deal? Could he possibly believe it could help his ward?

Posted by: G | October 17, 2007 3:00 PM

DC United needs to move to Leesburg area. There are plenty of Latinos and Soccer Families to support the team. Going into RFK to watch games is about as safe as driving a convertible through baghdad.

Posted by: DC United Move Now! | October 17, 2007 01:19 PM

Wow, dispelling these racist attitudes is another great reason to build a stadium in Anacostia. I live in an apartment 40 feet from the Stadium Armory metro station and never had a problem walking home from Capitol Hill/H St at all hours of the night, much less going between RFK and the metro station after a United game. That's a quiet neighborhood with working class families and you're much more likely to get mugged in Columbia Heights, Dupont or Adams Morgan.

Like NW guy said, the vast majority of DC residents have never set foot in Anacostia, especially not for recreation, and they're not going to unless they have a darn good reason (i.e. not another conference center or bloc of generic casual dining restaurants), like the tens of thousands of DC United fans. Bringing those people into the Ward for a pleasant family experience may change their mind a little about the area and make them more willing to patronize businesses in the future. I'm no mind-reader, but that's probably a big reason why Barry and lots of others in SE support the Poplar Point plan.

Posted by: danj | October 17, 2007 3:04 PM

DonK:

One guy in this thread called Fisher a Moron, and 5 complimented him.

It makes you look silly, despite some of the intelligent things you have said otherwise.

Posted by: JkR | October 17, 2007 3:14 PM

"Could he possibly believe it could help his ward?"

Seems to me that if Barry really wanted to help Ward 8, he would back a process that solicited as many plans as possible to assess the merits of each one, then decide which approach is best. "Marketplace of ideas," you understand.

Instead, he is cultivating a alliance with a powerful developer who wants an exclusive sweetheart deal. Now, first of all, if that doesn't remind you of the cronyism of his governing style, you probably didn't live in or near the District until the last eight years or so. But secondly, Barry, who was mayor for the first three years of DC United's existence, suddenly and suspiciously got the gospel of soccer. Where was his leadership on a stadium ten years ago?

So circumstantially, it's hard to take his interest in this seriously. I suspect Barry-- an exceptionally crafty politician-- is doing two things at once with this: (1) cultivating a relationship with a wealthy, able, and important African American developer, which fits into Barry's MO of favor-trading and sweetheart deals, and (2) setting up a confrontation with Fenty early, in preparation for 2010.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 3:22 PM

JkR:

You're right. And not very many soccer fans have called Fenty corrupt, either. It was wrong of me to present those as anything more than marginal opinions.

I have been adversarial here, but I do want United to have a stadium of their own, preferably in the District. What I'm trying to get across is the perception that I have, and that I've seen expressed here by DC residents without a dog in this fight, that DC soccer fans feel like they're entitled to their share of the spoils, even if that means continuing with the awful and essentially corrupt way things have been done since 1975 (not that I'm opposed to home rule!). Most are making very poor arguments very loudly, and many are personally vilifying people who raise entirely reasonable objections.

And I really think that embracing Marion Barry while blasting Fenty is a bad idea. If the right approach were taken, Fenty could be a strong ally. I'm curious to see which side of the issue Barry would end up on if Fenty were to find another District stadium site where the stadium could be built with less expense to the District.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 3:32 PM

"If they had their own stadium, DC United would liekly be the most profitable team in MLS.

Profitability is tied to owning the stadium and controlling the revenues from it - that's why MLS has made stadiums a key part of league expansion."
-----------------

So I'll ask this again: If a new stadium would make the team profitable, wouldn't that make MacFarlane a real estate developer FIRST, and team owner SECOND? Did he buy the team because it was a good SPORTS BUSINESS decision, or because it was a good REAL ESTATE decision (i.e. all the extra non-stadium land that he'd develop and make money off of)?

Posted by: Juan-John | October 17, 2007 3:33 PM

Are you talking about Fisher or Fenty? People (not the trolls, ignore them) have been clear with why they are upset with Fenty.

I don't know if you are aware of how long this Poplar Point / DCU dance has been going on. Conversations were had that Fenty is (by right) going back on. Vitriol should be expected. (Again, ignore the trolls).

I think you would do better by avoid the speculation on what other people's motives might be. It's just that, speculation.

Posted by: JkR | October 17, 2007 3:40 PM

"Couple this with the baseball deal that the District agreed to and kept revisiting after it was completed. The Council under Williams, and Mayor Fenty (or maybe it was just his influence in the Council) have proven that you can't do honest business with the district. They've shot the District's integrity."

Lies, lies, lies. Williams and Fenty are very, very different, and Fenty was the central figure of opposition to the baseball stadium. Williams and Barry are much more similar in their dealings with developers than Fenty.

If you think this kind of infantile attack on Fenty is going to help United get a stadium, you're way off base. Again, why is it that so many United fans think that a campaign of personalizing this debate is the most effective way to get a stadium for their team? United may win all their MSL games but they have less annual revenue than a medium-sized Wal Mart (and I'm not kidding-- DCU is 1/12th of an approximately $300m a year business). As much as the Nationals and even the Caps get mocked, their financial impact is much more significant. United has almost no financial clout, so you folks really need to try to play a bit nicer.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 3:47 PM

"MSL"

MLS, I know.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 3:49 PM

Don K,

Do you have a day job?

Posted by: d | October 17, 2007 4:03 PM

Not all of us have the same hours or work the same days, d. But thanks for your concern for my use of time. I suspect that it is a fraction of the time United fans obsess about this on their message board.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 4:24 PM

One thing that is consistently left out: DC wouldn't have been transferred possession of Poplar Point from the Federal Government, if it weren't for the lengthy and expensive lobbying efforts of DC United.

THAT is why Fenty is nothing more than a corrupt jackass. It isn't giving United/MacFarlane a "sweetheart deal" if United are the main reason that land is even on the table to be developed.

Leesburg? You've got to be kidding. Nothing outside the Beltway.

Posted by: AlecW81 | October 17, 2007 4:45 PM

obsess:
1) transitive verb
: to haunt or excessively preoccupy the mind of

2) intransitive verb
: to engage in obsessive thinking : become obsessed with an idea

DON K IS OBSESSED WITH THIS BLOG.

Posted by: WEBSTERS | October 17, 2007 4:47 PM

Interesting that little discussion has addressed the main reason (apparently) the two sides have split; the scale of the project.

The mayor is soliciting plans for development of around 4 million square feet, and MacFarlane was working on a plan that included about twice that much. The street-scapes that result from projects at these scales will be fundamentally different.

The mayor seems to be banking on getting acceptable proposals at his number, while MacFarlane apparently feels that the project won't work at that scale.

I guess we'll see who's right when the proposals are in and we can see for ourselves what's included in them.

Posted by: DCUInWheaton | October 17, 2007 4:54 PM

""United has almost no financial clout""

MCFARLANE IS A BILLIONAIRE. Is this not clout?

Posted by: richie rich | October 17, 2007 5:02 PM

"I don't know why United fans think that 16 games of soccer brings jillions of dollars to an area."

That figure is very low. DC plays international matches every year (6-8), plus exhibitions (i.e. Chelsea at FedEx), plus the site will be used for World Cup Qualifying matches and international non-MLS games between say, a Honduran team vs El Salvadoran team, plus MLS CUP is being played at RFK this year ===50,000 plus fans.

PLUS, as MCFARLANE has rightly pointed out in community meetings, the site would be open to local high schools, etc.

Posted by: Build It | October 17, 2007 5:07 PM

"One thing that is consistently left out: DC wouldn't have been transferred possession of Poplar Point from the Federal Government, if it weren't for the lengthy and expensive lobbying efforts of DC United. "

One thing you left out:

The entities involved in negotiating the transfer deal were Philip Anschutz, National Parks Service, and Mayor Williams.

Neither Anschutz nor Williams have anything to do with United or the District gov't anymore. Why should MacFarlane get credit from Fenty, when neither one had anything to do with the deal?

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 5:35 PM

"MCFARLANE IS A BILLIONAIRE. Is this not clout?"

But DC United is a very, very small revenue generator. A single big box retails out-earns any single MLS team. That is why it is so important to control stadium revenues, and to do everything fairly cheaply.

The growth potential of the soccer business is enormous, but it's not a player now. If soccer becomes a liability to MacFarlane's development business, he'll drop United like a hot potato.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 5:42 PM

"Websters," I'm articulating the viewpoint of a lot of District folks. I have been to United games, and had a good time, but I think there needs to be a more compelling case than "the Nationals got a stadium so we should too," "Ward 8 wants soccer-- just listen to Marion Barry," and "everyone who opposes the Poplar Point soccer stadium practices bestiality."

And it's astounding how some of the stadium proponents try to win over skeptics with demented personal attacks, even on the politicians whom they desperately need to court. You ain't gonna win this fight without Fenty's support, so why claim he's corrupt? And without significant-- perhaps majority-- support from District residents, it'll be hard to make the lobbying and endless petitions from out-of-towners stand up, so why insult me and others who raise very reasonable arguments WITHOUT name-calling?

I'm thinking that the stupidest stuff is coming from non-DC folks. Is there a way for the reasonable people to shut up the crazies, before they poison the well?

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 5:51 PM

Don K wrote: "The growth potential of the soccer business is enormous, but it's not a player now. If soccer becomes a liability to MacFarlane's development business, he'll drop United like a hot potato."

DC United IS a liability to MacFarlane's development business.

He has not indicated, IN ANY WAY that I have heard of, his intention to "drop" United.

Just sayin'

Posted by: DCUInWheaton | October 17, 2007 6:13 PM

Fisher,

I think you hit this issue right on the money and thank you for publishing this (since nobody else at the Post seems to even know the stadium is even an issue). Positive or negative at least you are bringing it up and this article was very well done.

I think you could also be the first person at the Post to recognize that a new RFK could include DC United, which is probably exactly what should be done. Unlike the Nats new home or Poplar Point that is going to be a nightmare and a half (think rush hour traffic + weekday game) on local commuters at least RFK is set up for big events.

Now you just need to convince everyone else...back to square one zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Posted by: Southeasterner | October 17, 2007 6:26 PM

If not for United this land would remain in the feds. hands forever. The D.C. gov. had no interest in ward 8 until DCU stepped in. They complain about the infrastructure part because they never wanted to spend the money on ward 8. Tell me Chinatown is dead when the Caps or Wiz. don't play,in response to only 16 games a year.

Posted by: ZOSODAVE | October 17, 2007 6:45 PM

P.S. I shouldn't count out friendlies, tournaments,and possibly national team games could add another 10 to 20 (matches).

Posted by: Anonymous | October 17, 2007 6:57 PM

"If not for United "

You're deliberately conflating United's old owner, who reportedly facilitated the process, with United's new owner, who had nothing to do with it. Was the "obligation" (if that's the way to describe it) to Anschutz transferred to Macfarlane? Evidently not, but trying to claim that United has been betrayed isn't any way to make the case.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 7:03 PM

DK---why shouldn't we go after the politician who promised us a stadium and is nixing the deal . . . even if it was made by the previous administration?

Ward 8 and Ward 7 Council Members plus 200 people talked about this very issue. Shouldn't they go after the promises of the Mayor? Should I as a DC voter?

""The growth potential of the soccer business is enormous, but it's not a player now""

You clearly are a pawn of your environment, so I grant you some mercy. Afterall, it takes a bit of effort to leave the confines of your blog and understand all that is football here in the U.S. I won't go into the details of the soccer related investment that have been made in the U.S. since we held the World Cup in 1994. Billionaires are involved and Billion dollar companies are involved.

Posted by: build it | October 17, 2007 7:04 PM

Wow!!! DK, then why are you one of the view posting on it?

""I'm articulating the viewpoint of a lot of District folks.""

Posted by: please | October 17, 2007 10:31 PM

"why shouldn't we go after the politician who promised us a stadium and is nixing the deal . . . even if it was made by the previous administration?"

I have been looking for this "promise," and the only thing I found is a quote from Fenty on DC United's website, where he says he "hope[s]" to see United playing at Poplar Point.

If there's an actual promise, rather than encouraging words, please fill me in.

Posted by: Don K | October 17, 2007 11:41 PM

""You're deliberately conflating United's old owner""

Dude, you are so full of yourself aren't you?

DC UNITED owner A vs Owner B is your entire argument? Did you fail as English 101? Seriously, the debate team reject . .

Posted by: Fisher's Red Headed Step Child | October 18, 2007 1:04 AM

Most blacks living in D.C. don't follow Soccer. They follow the NBA or NFL. Most Central Americans/South Americans and Carribeans follow Soccer. You have some whites in the suburbs who enjoy Soccer, but it's not as big here in the United States.

Posted by: Illegal Alien | October 18, 2007 1:19 AM

DC United brings an electricity to the DC area that would be a shame to lose. It is sad that a lot of people have yet to experience it.

Posted by: Sean | October 18, 2007 1:23 AM

Let the D.C. United move to El Salvador or Mexico. Maybe all the illegal aliens living here in the D.C. area will move back home. Most Central Americans living in the D.C. area have taken over the parks from white and black citizens in their neighborhoods.

Posted by: Illegal Alien | October 18, 2007 1:24 AM

Just wanted to say thanks for a fair and nuanced piece, Mr. Fisher.

I'm one of the few DC United die-hards who has trouble getting upset about Fenty's decision to make the process competitive. At this point it's up to the team to put in the best proposal -- and they should -- or else find another location that will work.

DC United put too many eggs in one Poplar Point basket over the past few years. And as fans, so did we. Now, instead of crying about it, I think our chances are a lot better if we support Poplar Point proposals that include a soccer stadium -- whatever form they might take.

This is not the time to cry foul. That will come when the mayor fails choose a proposal that includes a stadium. But if the team pulls out of the competition now, we won't have much room to complain, will we?

Posted by: It Ain't Over Yet, People | October 18, 2007 4:07 AM

What about the sole-source deals that Mayor Fenty hasn't opened up to other bidders, Marc?

Radio One...

Thx,

Jay!

Posted by: JayRockers! | October 18, 2007 11:56 AM

From your own paper, Marc. Let Mr. Fenty pick and choose which sweetheart deals to reneg on.

Thx,

Jay!

Radio One Deal Weighed Down by Social Static

By Steven Pearlstein
Friday, September 28, 2007; Page D01

On the surface, the proposal for new Radio One headquarters near Howard University looks to have all the markings of a sweetheart deal.

The project will be on what is now choice, city-owned land, atop the Shaw/Howard Metro stop. The land will be sold without competitive bidding to a development group headed by a lifelong friend of the top executive of Radio One and the son and nephew of a former D.C. Council member, none of whom has much development experience.

Posted by: JayRockers! | October 18, 2007 12:12 PM

HEY DK!! LOOKIE HERE, Was FENTY lying to voters? Should I not be upset?

"Thank you Kevin for this D.C. United jersey and congratulations on your terrific season," Fenty said. "It is great to see over 20,000 fans here at RFK supporting D.C. United. It is my hope that your fans will soon be coming to your brand new soccer stadium at Poplar Point in Anacostia. World class fans, and a world class team like D.C. United, deserve a world class stadium. And I am going to make it a priority to help you build that stadium. Thank you -- congratulations and good luck to the Black-and-Red!"

-Adrian Fenty on Oct 29 2006 (right before a mayoral elction mind you)

link to full article: http://www.mlsnet.com/news/team_news.jsp?ymd=20061031&content_id=77524&vkey=news_dcu&fext=.jsp&team=t10

Posted by: blah | October 18, 2007 7:45 PM

Still looking for any sign of a "promise."

It's a priority of mine to retire at age 55. But I wouldn't "promise" anyone that I was going to do it.

Posted by: Don K | October 18, 2007 8:53 PM

DON K, can you read?

"It is my hope that your fans will soon be coming to """your brand new soccer stadium at POPLAR POINT in Anacostia.""" World class fans, and a world class team like D.C. United, deserve a world class stadium. And """I am going to make it a PRIORITY to help you build that stadium."""

Posted by: omfgwhatanidiot | October 19, 2007 1:41 AM

Not only can I read, I can also use synonyms, and nowhere in Fenty's remark is there a promise or assurance or a guarantee of a Poplar Point stadium.

"Hope," "deserve," "a priority," but no real commitment. This is the sort of language that governments are built on. I understand you are disappointed, but to stake your lobbying campaign on the charge that Fenty went back on any promise of a stadium is a laugher.

If you can find a quote where there's a guarantee, I'll take that back. But you're trying to tell me 2+2=5.

Posted by: Don K | October 19, 2007 10:02 AM

It's quite obvious that your cerebral cortex is underdeveloped.

It's also clear that you enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing, despite evidence that contradicts your statements.

Posted by: don k's brain | October 19, 2007 1:20 PM

To paraphrase Fenty:

"I am going to make a world class stadium for DC UNITED at Poplar Point a priority."

Do you agree or disagree?

Posted by: clearlylobotomized | October 19, 2007 1:22 PM

No, I don't think saying that a given task is "a priority" is at all the same as guaranteeing that it will be accomplished. Had he said "I promise you, I will ensure that DC United will have a stadium at Poplar Point," all the hysterics would be justified.

Posted by: Don K | October 19, 2007 1:55 PM

That wasn't the question.

The question is I REPEAT ..

To paraphrase Fenty:

"I am going to make a world class stadium for DC UNITED at Poplar Point a priority."

Do you agree or disagree with this paraphrase?

Posted by: pleasesayyoucan'tvoteindc | October 19, 2007 3:09 PM

The statement from candidate Fenty:

"Thank you Kevin for this D.C. United jersey and congratulations on your terrific season," Fenty said. "It is great to see over 20,000 fans here at RFK supporting D.C. United. It is my hope that your fans will soon be coming to your brand new soccer stadium at Poplar Point in Anacostia. World class fans, and a world class team like D.C. United, deserve a world class stadium. And I am going to make it a priority to help you build that stadium. Thank you -- congratulations and good luck to the Black-and-Red!"

Posted by: againforthemoron'sintheworld | October 19, 2007 3:11 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company