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Land Swap At Heart Of D.C. United Stadium Deal Gives Some Legislators Pause

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A rendering of the new D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point.
D.C. United
A rendering of the new D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point.

There were cheers of support when D.C. Mayor Vince Gray announced a deal for a $300 million D.C. United stadium this week. But some legislators are warning that it's not a done deal.

The devil is in the details, they say. And when it comes to the deal that Gray has negotiated with D.C. United, there are plenty of devils hiding in the 17-page agreement that he signed with team officials on Thursday.

The heart of the deal revolves around a land swap: landowners on the stadium site would give up what they've got for land that D.C. owns elsewhere in the city. The biggest offering is the Reeves Center, a D.C. government building at 14th and U Streets NW that's worth $100 million and would be turned over to Akridge, the developer that owns a large part of the proposed stadium site.

That's making some council members pause, including Kenyan McDuffie from Ward 5, who appeared on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on Friday.

"I need to look at the details," he said. "The devil is always the details, and this is a very complicated scheme that the mayor and the city administrator have put together."

Mayoral contenders Jack Evans and Tommy Wells like the deal, but Muriel Bowser doesn't.

Neil DeMause, who has written about publicly financed stadiums, thinks that skepticism is justified.

"It seems like there's still an awful lot of moving parts in this deal," said DeMause. "I've looked over the term sheet, and there's an awful lot of numbers yet to be negotiated."

The council has until January 1 to arrange the necessary land swaps, or the deal could fall apart.

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