D.C. officials considering land swap for new soccer stadium

Perry Kitchen

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By DAN KARELL

Washington D.C. officials are getting creative when it comes to finding a way for D.C. United to have a home of their own.

According to reports out of the Capital, city officials are considering a land swap with real estate firm Akridge to give D.C. United a chance to build a new stadium in Buzzard Point, an area along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

The city is reportedly considering trading a couple of “high-profile D.C.-owned buildings” in place of nine acres of land on Buzzard Point. D.C. United has previously said they would privately finance a new stadium on their own, but wanted the city to pay for the land and surrounding infrastructure costs.

What do you make of this news? Do you see a resolution on the D.C. United Stadium situation coming soon?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Featured, Major League Soccer, MLS- D.C. United. Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to D.C. officials considering land swap for new soccer stadium

  1. WK says:

    By hook or crook…

  2. csa says:

    how the heck has the best MLS team in its history doesn’t have its own stadium. a nice 20,000 stadium. how hard is it? I can donate $18.71

    • Ben says:

      Most of DC is very expensive – the Redskins don’t even play here anymore.

    • Jacknut says:

      Harder than you think. Remember, even the Red***ns were forced out to the burbs.

      First, DC land use is remarkably complicated, even by big city standards. A large percentage of land in the District is Federal property, which requires an Act of Congress to transfer. There are a host of environmental, historic preservation and ownership issues that tie up the rest of the land. Putting together a large parcel of land to develop in DC is incredibly difficult, especially when considered against “newer” cities like Salt Lake City or Portland.

      Second, DC United has gone out of its way to shoot itself in the foot on a number of occasions. There was a huge effort to acquire Federal land at Poplar Point, involving years of lobbying Congress, working with District Officals on a land swap and more. That effort died for a number of reasons.

      The MacFarlane ownership tenure was a disaster for DCU in terms of making progress on a stadium. Victor MacFarlane turned out to be a fraud (Google CALPERS and MacFarlane) and angered many DC area officials, at a time when the Nationals were busy poisoning the well for future stadium efforts.

      There was an effort to build a stadium on Metro-owned land in Price Georges County, MD. For whatever reason, United failed to play the game the way it is played here in Maryland, which left them with no political support and a humiliating PG County Council resolution against the stadium.

      For the past few years, United has been undercapitalized (see the player pool) and struggling to get by. WIth Thorir and Levien on board, those issues should be resolved. I hate to say it, but this proposal probably represents the last best chance for a stadium in DC. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I won’t celebrate until the first Barra Beer Shower.

      By way of background, I’ve been a DC fan since the beginning and worked on land use issues for years in the area, although not on anything related to United.

      • Central Scrutinizer says:

        Awesome overview. Thank you.

      • Felix says:

        Great summary – thanks.
        Though I’m curious to the “game”, as its played in Maryland. Probably similar to my hometown of Chicago.

        • Jacknut says:

          Felix, I’m sure the game in Chicago would seem familiar to someone in Maryland, except the players would be different. You have to line up the appropriate influencers at each level, in the correct order. Time donations and appearances to the right part of the political calendar, etc.

          We all know it’s a game, but you still have to play it.

        • Enos says:

          The game was definitely bribary. Jack Johnson who was the County executive at the time was taken down by the FBI for taking and demanding bribes for development. Just google Jack Johnson and Prince George’s County.

          • Jacknut says:

            Thank you everyone for the kind words.

            It was more than just failing to make the right bribes. They really failed to line up the necessary political support and then announced everything and started transferring business to PG (visiting team hotel, for example), which cost them on both sides of Western Ave.

      • WhiteHart says:

        Great insight, I think I may have read 5 or so of these DC stadium posts an your’s was the first comment that I can remember that explains the situation for those of us not familiar with all the failed proposals.

      • Josh D says:

        Absolutely agree. All I hear from United now is “blah, blah, stadium, blah, blah, blah, lies about players, blah, blah, desperate for attendance.” As a fan since ’96, I’ve lost hope.

        DC United or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love RFK.

    • ed - houston says:

      I would say LA is the best team, ever, in MLS, right Gnarls. LA have become champs in a time when the league is much improved and with more teams to compete with for SS and MLS cup.

    • Soccerhorn says:

      Actually the best soccer team in the history of the MLS does have it’s own stadium. It’s in Carson, CA.

      • Chris says:

        I can’t believe I’m actually coming to DCU defense here but, remind me again, Ed and Soccerhorn when did LA win a confederation club cup/ tournament?

        • glou says:

          2000

          oops

        • FSegaud says:

          Wow…really Chris? You’re gonna put all the eggs in that one basket which was a one off that no other teams were afforded the chance to take part in before (I believe) or afterwards? Besides, that trip to Brazil was a long flight I bet….oh wait….

          …and the FIFA crooks essentially stole LA’s chance for comparable competition.

  3. MMV says:

    At this point DCU need to consider a couple of player swaps before even pondering land swaps. Success on the field will bring that stadium closer to reality. You can’t do that with a roster full of crap. There are few clubs in MLS that have the history and fan base of DCU and they deserve a stadium of their own. They need to get back to winnng ways and have the cityu of the city again.

    • MMV says:

      Tying too fast — last sentence should read:

      *** They need to get back to winnng ways and have the buzz of the city again.***

    • dano says:

      To get the player swaps/signings, they need to get out of RFK and stop paying rent on the stadium.

      New stadiums bring increased revenue, higher visibility and attractiveness to fans and potential signings. Getting a new stadium will get DCU on the way to winning again.

      Sincerely,

      Sporting KC

    • Jared Bendy says:

      But now there is the attraction of the Nats, Caps, and Redskins, which definitely out weighs DCU

    • 407 says:

      Note: it’s the city (Washington DC) that’s considering the land swap. The team can continue trying to shape up on the field, and the owners can get their checkbook ready if DC City swaps for some land and suddenly calls up one day to say, “OK, start building.”

    • Matt says:

      You’ve got it entirely backwards. The owners aren’t going to put any money into the team until they have a stadium deal in place. They’re losing far too much money playing at RFK.

      • Joemybro says:

        For anyone old enough to remember a Keanu Reeves classic, the DCU better team/build a stadium thing= the Eddie Van Halen/triumphant video conundrum.
        Wyld Stalyans Rule!
        Also, Vamos United!

  4. Gary Page says:

    If they get a new stadium, I hope it will be bigger than the usual 20,000 or at least allow room for future expansion. I think MLS has set its sights too low on stadium size.

    • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho says:

      20,000 is a good starting point. Average MLS attendance is 18.8k. If you have a 30,000 seat stadium that is half empty for many games, you are wasting money, and dampening the atmosphere/ fan experience.

    • Charles says:

      Agreed, Vancouver has it right ( Seattle too obviously ).

      Cover the upper deck for later or special games. Don’t have to go through this whole mess again later.

    • AgentJ says:

      Empty seats showing up on TV are pretty detrimental to the league. Allowing for future expansion like Philly, KC, Portland, Seattle/Vancouver (by opening up the upper decks) seems to be the best strategy, keeping costs and capacity down now while being ready to meet higher demand if the need arises in the future.

      • Beto says:

        How are pilly, kc or portland allowing for future growth? Can those stadiums be expanded?

        I would hope that a Red Bull Arena 25,000-30,000 seater stadium would be ideal for DC as they certainly have one of the bigger fan bases (when they turn it around) and the likelyhood that the stadium will host a lot of International games, UMNT and others..

        • Noah says:

          Philly and KC were both designed with future expansion in mind. Houston as well. All those stadiums can go up to 30K. I don’t think Portland was though.

          • seaoctopus says:

            Portland was shoehorned into an old Minor League Baseball park in the middle of the city. Great atmosphere but not much potential. In a few years you’ll hear more about building in the Rose Quarter…

  5. Darwin says:

    Just move them to Flushing Meadow.

  6. Dave says:

    I can’t be the only one here who saw “swap” and read “swamp”.

  7. Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

    Even though I hate DCU I still want them to get a great stadium. They deserve it, their fans deserve it and the league deserves it. It’s a shame how long it’s taken and it’s not even really happening…yet. Think of all the teams that have come in after them and have beautiful stadiums. That’s politics I guess.

  8. dan says:

    jeez this is taking forever.

    DCU and Revolution need to get their act together and finish up a stadium already, it’s really killing the rest of us.

    • Cavan says:

      Thanks for the words of encouragement!!!!

      Do you have any concrete ideas to actually accomplish those goals? You just read a linked article about specific steps that the DC United ownership is taking in partnership with the District of Columbia government to swap land so there’s a large enough parcel for a stadium.

      As Jacknut said above, land use politics around here are exceptionally complicated, perhaps the most complicated in the whole country. The Washington NFL team couldn’t get a new stadium done in the District back in the mid 1990′s. This was many years before the city revitalized and property values went through the roof. Whether we like it or not, the Washington NFL team is the king of the sports pages around here and they counldn’t get it done.

      Because of all the design review, NIMBYism, historic preservation, environmental review, whining, etc., it can take five or more years before a developer can break ground on a simple condo/apartment building on land they’ve owned for decades and zoning allows them to build by right.

      Combine the need to be near the Metro in a centrally located place and you have a difficult situation. I view the fact that the District government is now talking and negotiating with United and other stakeholders as a positive development when we had nothing at all before Mr. Levien and Mr. Thohir joined the ownership group.

    • bryan says:

      the two are 100% different. DC is having trouble with getting the land, but ready to pay for the stadium themselves. Kraft doesn’t want to move the Revs and certainly doesn’t want to pay for a stadium when he already owns one.

      apples and oranges my friend.

  9. fischy says:

    If the city can pull this off, it could be one of the most innovative development deals ever. While it’s always fashionable to make fun of the DC gov’t, this would be some serious awesome sauce.

    The team would get its stadium, the city would get a much needed single campus (and even more needed new buildings) for Police, Fire and EMS, and Akridge would probably end up with more centrally-located properties to develop.

    A very complex package with lots of moving pieces — lots of things to put together in a short time — but if it can get done, it will be the most creative win-win-win deal evah.

  10. SocArbitro says:

    This may represent the last best chance for a stadium in DC but the location is still suspect. How may folks have visited Buzzard’s Point? Stadium access will be a major issue and lack of convenient Metro access will only compound this. Significant infrastructure investment will be required to make this site even somewhat acceptable.

    • Cavan says:

      The Metro access is fine. It’s about as far from the Half and M SE exit of the Navy Yard Metro to the proposed stadium site as it is from the Stadium-Armory Metro to the back of Lot 8. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk. The Navy Yard Metro has already been expanded when it was renovated for the baseball stadium.

      What other site do you have in mind that isn’t already spoken for and is inside the beltway, near a Metro station but not in Virginia (you can’t build stadiums in Virginia for various reasons) or Prince George’s County?

    • bryan says:

      it’ll be fine. it’s not that bad.

  11. Matt says:

    Sorry, but Dan’s post here shows a level on optimism that the linked article simply doesn’t convey.
    Here’s the key line:
    “A city official speaking on deep background confirms the idea has been floated, though no deal has been reached yet and may never be, given the logistical and financial hurdles that must be overcome.”
    In other words…this is all massively theoretical.
    Cit officials are not considering a land swap as Dan put it….someone just threw out the idea.

  12. ed - houston says:

    Do something already. True DC fans will have no probs getting there.

  13. bryan says:

    even though im now in san diego, i really am hoping for this. they deserve a stadium.

  14. Jim says:

    Orlando is building a stadium. Maybe DC can move there, perfect for the mickey mouse club they have become. Oh, wait, there is a better team there already. Sorry.

  15. Frank Godley says:

    I can elaborate a bit on Jacknut’s accurate comment above. DC United and the City identified a parcel of land across the Anacostia River from what is now Nationals Stadium. United wanted it and the City wanted United to build a mixed use development there which would have greatly helped a depressed part of the city.

    The land in question is owned by the Federal Government. So Congress would have had to pass a bill transferring the land to the District who then would have had to make it available to United under some arrangement.

    The relevant Congressional committees seemed ready – the sticking point is that by law any currently operating federal facilities on the parcel would have had to be replaced by the District.

    Essentiality it would have to be an acceptable land swap with buildings built by the City if they did not exist. But among the current facilities on the land are offices of the National Park Service and quite a busy National Park Service heliport. At one point there was some idea that a part of National Airport could be given over, but the FAA nixed that idea. The Navy has abandoned a heliport where the Presidential helicopter fleet was stationed – it has now been moved to Quantico. But it is on a secure military base and the Pentagon said no. The FAA also turned down other ideas.

    It just got too complicated.

    • Jacknut says:

      Thanks Frank. I didn’t know about the FAA nixing a swap with part of Reagan Airport.

  16. SoccerFan says:

    What ever happened to bringing it into Baltimore?? That plan was scrapped for some reason. Too bad.. I’m sure land could have been acquired alot easier than finding a spot in DC.

    • Jacknut says:

      Baltimore is still on the back burner. From the first, the goal has always been a stadium in the Nation’s Capital.

    • Cavan says:

      The ownership bought into DC United to keep it in the DC region. Baltimore is a whole other metro area. We don’t share teams. Baltimore would be an excellent place for a future expansion team. Soccer is as popular in their city as anywhere else. They already have a centrally located stadium site identified that’s on their light rail line. All they need is good ownership.

  17. EricEsq says:

    Is renovating RFK not an option? Since the Redskins left and the Nationals finished their facility, I think DC United are the only regular team playing there. I don’t know how expensive it would be, but there’s nothing wrong with the RFK location in my book.

    I like the Buzzard Point idea. I’d rather stay at RFK than move out to the burgs. Let’s not have a Pizza Hut park situation. Or even Red Bulls. It saddens me to see that great looking stadium half filled.