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Catania Opposes Land Swap At Heart of D.C. United Stadium Deal

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

D.C. mayoral contender David Catania said today that while he supports the construction of a planned $300 million D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C., he's opposed to a land swap that is at the heart of the deal.

Speaking on WAMU 88.5's The Politics Hour, Catania criticized Mayor Vincent Gray's plan to trade the Reeves Center at 14th and U Streets NW for the parcels of land needed to build the stadium.

"I support building a stadium. I don't support the swap with respect to the Reeves Center," he said. "I don't think tethering that to the construction of a soccer stadium makes sense."

Under the terms of the deal, developer Akridge would get the Reeves Center, which houses D.C. government offices, for $55 million. Of that amount, $34.5 million would be paid to D.C. in cash, while the remaining $21 million would come from the value of the land where the stadium would be built. Critics of the deal say the Reeves Center is being under-valued.

Catania said that instead of trading the Reeves Center for the stadium parcels, the city could sell the center on the open market and use the proceeds to buy the land needed for the 20,000-seat stadium.

"I don't believe that you sell one of the family jewels based on a negotiation without putting this prime piece of property out for bid for the highest bidder. If what Mr. Akridge wants for the property he owns in Southwest is X amount of dollars for that land, we can give him X amount of dollars."

Catania also said he wanted to make sure that the Reeves Center includes commercial spaces or a hotel that would serve daytime traffic. This week, The Washington Post reported that City Administrator Allen Lew said that he would ensure that the redevelopment of the site included such amenities.

Fellow mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser and Carol Schwartz have similarly expressed reservations with the land swap, as have various members of the D.C. Council.

Under the stadium deal negotiated by Gray, D.C. would put $150 million towards acquiring the needed land and upgrading infrastructure, while the team would pay $150 million to build the stadium. The deal, which also includes sales and property tax breaks for the team, is now working its way through the Council. Earlier this week, a Council committee headed by Bowser started a series of public hearings on the stadium deal.

In an interview, Catania differentiated between the United stadium proposals and Nationals Park, the $700 million baseball stadium paid for with taxpayer funds. Catania opposed the construction of that stadium.

"The soccer proposition involves more of partnership than a complete one-sidedness. The baseball stadium project really required minimal investment on the part of the owner," he said. The soccer stadium, Catania commented, is a "more self-respecting proposal where both sides see a win and both sides contribute accordingly."

The stadium is expected to be completed by March 2018.

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