SBD/July 25, 2013/Facilities

MLS DC United, City Officials Reach Tentative Deal For $300M Stadium Project

DC United will be granted a 25- to 35-year lease for the land
MLS DC United and city officials have reached a preliminary $300M deal to build a 20,000-25,000 seat soccer-specific stadium in the Buzzard Point area of Southwest DC. The venue is expected to be built in time for the '16 season. Under provisions of the terms sheet, the city anticipates that it will swap DC-owned property to assemble the stadium site parcels. The term sheet calls for DC to act as a horizontal developer and assume the cost of land acquisition and infrastructure (approximately $150M), while DC United would build the venue (approximtalely $150M). There is not yet a finalized design for the proposed stadium (DC United). SI.com's Brian Straus tweeted from the press conference announcing the deal, "Marion Barry interrupts mayor, who admits other 2 land swaps req not finalized. 1 owner says its 'early.' Welcome to DC. This far from over." Boston.com blogger Garrett Quinn noted, "DC United's stadium deal leaves New England as the only original MLS club without a soccer specific stadium."

SEARCH COMES TO A CLOSE: In DC, Jonathan O'Connell in a front-page piece notes the deal could "end a decade-long search" for a new venue. The team has played at RFK Stadium since '96, but its investors "say the team loses money every year" at the venue. DC United Managing Partner Jason Levien said that the team had "yet to decide whether to build a 20,000-seat stadium with room for expansion or build 25,000 seats at the start." O'Connell reports DC United would be "granted a 25- to 35-year lease for the land and would have the opportunity to develop restaurants, shops and possibly a hotel." The new stadium would be located "a few blocks southwest of Nationals Park." DC Mayor Vincent Gray, "unlike previous mayors who considered stadium options to keep the team from relocating," enjoys a "stable budget outlook and a negotiating partner" in Levien and team investor Erick Thohir. The two partners bought a majority stake in the team last year, and say that they "can help finance the project." But the plan "hinges on a series of proposed land swaps and development projects across the city that could lead to political and logistical land mines." The deal has several aspects which "have not been finalized and would require approval" from the city council. A sales and use tax abatement "worth as much as" $2.6M in its first year also is "part of the tentative deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/25).

DOLLARS & SENSE: In DC, Steven Goff writes United moving out of RFK Stadium "is about more than aesthetics" it is "about revenue streams." If the Buzzard Point deal is finalized, the team will play in "one of the most urban settings in the league, accessible by public transportation and close to commercial development." But Buzzard Point "does have drawbacks." The venue's "tight footprint leaves little room for parking, although lots utilized by the Nationals would be available when baseball is idle." The city "plans to have streetcars running through the area in the future" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/25).

MOTOR CITY EXPANSION? In Detroit, Marlon Walker reports the owners of the city's Penobscot Building "hope to build" an MLS stadium "atop the Wayne County Jail site." Toronto-based Triple Group of Companies Managing Partner Steve Apostolopoulos said that "extensive research studies show downtown Detroit is ripe for a soccer team." He added that his company "began talks with MLS officials after purchasing the Pontiac Silverdome" in late '09 for $583,000. He said that after the purchase, the company "began looking at the dome as a possible soccer facility." The dome instead will be "used for multipurpose family-style events if county officials select their bid for the downtown site" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 7/25).
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