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Soccer Fans Push For New D.C. United Stadium, But Timeline Remains Elusive

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.

Fans of D.C. United have spent close to two decades watching their home team play at the aging RFK Stadium, and are now pushing the D.C. Council to give quick approval to a land swap at the heart of a $300 million plan for a new stadium in Southwest.

Team officials said today that 2,000 D.C. residents collectively sent 27,000 emails to Mayor Vincent Gray and Council members via Unite D.C., a website set up by the team to lobby the city's legislature to approve the stadium deal. Emails generated by the website tout the stadium's benefits to the surrounding area, comparing it to the Verizon Center and its impact on Gallery Place.

"The current proposal is good for the District. It's an economic development plan that creates jobs and provides redevelopment benefits in multiple wards across the city. The plan also will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to support District priorities such as education, affordable housing and public safety," reads the automatically generated email, which is sent to Gray and all 13 Council members.

"Just as the Verizon Center transformed the Gallery Place neighborhood, the new stadium will further establish the Anacostia waterfront as a recognized commercial and cultural destination," it adds.

The proposed plan calls on D.C. to make a land swap and perform infrastructure updates worth $150 million, with the team kicking in another $150 million to build the stadium. The stadium is to be completed by 2016.

At the heart of the land swap is the Reeves Center at 14th and U Streets, a D.C. government building that would be traded away to Akridge, a developer, in exchange for land it owns where the stadium is to be located.

Though an original agreement signed by Gray and team officials last year would have had the land swap finalized by January, City Administrator Allen Lew has yet to hand specifics to the Council, which would have to approve the plan. Tony Robinson, a spokesman for Lew, says that there is no timeline in place for the Council to get the details.

"We're still waiting, talking and negotiating, trying to get the best deal for the District," he says.

Public opinion has been soft on the stadium plan. According to a Washington Post poll published in January, six in 10 residents oppose the deal. A February poll said support was more favorable, with 49 percent of residents saying they backed the land swap at the heart of the deal.

Some Council members have expressed concerns with trading away the Reeves Center, including Muriel Bowser, who is also a mayoral frontrunner. She called it an "ill-defined land swap," and is cautioning that the process may have to be slowed.

"The entire process behind the current proposal feels as though it has been rushed and was developed behind closed doors," she says.

Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), also a mayoral contender, has called for affordable housing to be included in the deal, while Vincent Orange (D-At Large) has also questioned the land swap. Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) remains one of the stadium's strongest supporters.

"There are only two teams [professional soccer teams] in the country that do not have new stadiums and we are one of them. The broad outlines in the proposal I do support, such as location and overall financing," he says.

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