I am excited about the recently announced deal to build a soccer stadium in the District and want to explain why I think this will be good for our city. In case you haven’t seen it in the news, last month the District signed a preliminary agreement to build a “new, state-of-the-art, LEED-certified … 20,000-25,000… seat outdoor soccer stadium” that will also be used as an entertainment venue.
The initial plan is for the District to swap certain government-owned property, including the Reeves Center on U Street, to put together enough property in the larger Capitol Riverfront area for a stadium. I anticipate that this deal will be controversial, as any major economic development project in the city seems to be, so I want to give you a few reasons why I anticipate supporting this project in any action that requires Council approval.
First, it is important to know that the D.C. United club has agreed to pay for the actual stadium construction. At a cost of $150 million, this is a big commitment from a club whose fans have for years endured an increasingly decrepit RFK stadium – paint is peeling off the seats and the loudspeakers echo to the point that the announcers are nearly unintelligible.
Secondly, the site on U Street currently occupied by government offices can be developed into a thriving mixed-use property that generates substantial revenue for the city. This property could help to fill a gap between the quickly developing U Street area and the north Dupont-Adams Morgan area while contributing to the further economic development of the corridor.
Finally, the stadium area itself will be a catalyst for further development in the Capitol Riverfront area. I always tell people that we could have easily gone the way of Detroit and Baltimore in the 1990s, when people were steadily moving out of the city due to crime and government instability. Strategic economic development projects like Gallery Place and the Verizon Center, Nationals Park, and the Convention Center have all been anchors for future development that pay for themselves many times over in new tax revenue. These were 7-6 votes on the Council, and it took courage for many members to support these projects in the face of the opposition. Now, though, it’s hard to find anyone who opposed these projects, since they are all such dramatic success stories.
First the businesses and law firms move into a new area, then restaurants follow, and soon you have mixed-use development including condominiums, grocery stores and retail. This is a formula that I believe will work and I will continue to advocate for these types of projects moving forward.