Report: DC United Stadium Expected to Be Most Expensive in MLS History

The public would be on the hook for 46 percent of the projected $286.7 million cost.
Report: DC United Stadium Expected to Be Most Expensive in MLS History
Rendering by Populous via DC United.

A long-overdue report on the proposed DC United soccer stadium suggests it could be the most expensive venue in the history of Major League Soccer. The report, ordered earlier this year by the DC Council but only released to the public Wednesday—after a general election—projects a stadium opening in time for United’s 2017 season will cost $286.7 million.

The District and the team are splitting the costs, with taxpayers footing the bills for infrastructure and readying nine acres of Buzzard Point in Southwest for construction, and United paying for the actual building. The report, which was prepared in part by a firm run by former DC City Administrator Robert Bobb, estimates the public’s end will cost $131.1 million, about 46 percent of the total, although a term sheet Mayor Vince Gray and United executives signed in July 2013 allows the city to spend up to $151.7 million. Building a 20,000-seat arena will cost the team $155.6 million.

Of the 19 current MLS teams, 15 play in soccer-specific stadiums, all of which have been built or completely renovated since 1999 at an average cost of $105.5 million. The most expensive stadium in the league right now is Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, which opened in 2010 at a cost of $245 million, only 35 percent of which came from Garden State taxpayers.

More imminently, though, the stadium report also projects DC taxpayers will take a $25.7 million bath once it completes all the land deals to assemble the stadium zone. The deal involves getting a large chunk of Buzzard Point from the development firm Akridge in exchange for the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center at 14th and U streets, Northwest, and smaller parcels from other landowners in exchange for cash or other plots of real estate. But according to the report, the Akridge’s negotiated price of $55.6 million for the Reeves Center is more than $11.2 million below its assessed value. (Akridge, which would likely tear down the old municipal building and put up a mixed-use development at one of the city’s hottest intersections, stands to gain even more in the long run.) Moreover, DC is overpaying for Buzzard Point parcels owned by Pepco, Mark Ein, and a junkyard to the tune of $19.4 million. (The city’s expenses are offset by $5 million in cash from Akridge and United.)

The report isn’t actually that grim over the longterm. It projects substantial benefits to the city, especially Southwest, if the stadium gets built. Economic investment over a 32-year period could support up to 1,683 full-time jobs, with financial benefits exceeding costs by $109.4 million over the life of the stadium.

Read the full report below.

DC Soccer Cost-Benefit Analysis FINAL


Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.