The DC Council gave final, unanimous approval to the plan for a soccer-specific stadium for DC United to be built on Buzzard Point, putting to rest any lingering doubt that the Major League Soccer franchise will find a permanent home in the city.
The plan calls for the District government to spend up to $150 million to acquire the nine-acre stretch of Southwest DC and upgrade its infrastructure, with the team itself paying another $150 million for construction of the proposed 20,000-seat park. The combined expenses will make the future stadium the most expensive venue in MLS history, according to a city-sponsored study published in November.
In order to pay for the city’s end of the deal, the Council voted to take out another $106 million in new debt, and to move $32 million from funding for other capital improvement projects, including school construction and transportation upgrades. Council member and mayoral runner-up David Catania raised objections over taking money out of those items before ultimately voting in favor of the stadium plan.
“It is a victory for the team and its fans, the city, the region, and the sport of soccer in this country,” United’s managing partner, Jason Levien, says in a statement from the team. “Our new stadium will add to the positive development already taking place along the Anacostia waterfront. It will be a venue that makes its neighbors proud; it will help our city become the nation’s soccer capital.”
But United can’t stick its picks in the Buzzard Point dirt just yet. While arrangements are in place for the District to acquire land from Pepco, Mark Ein, and an industrial junkyard, the city still needs to make a deal with the development firm Akridge. The first plans for the stadium proposed swapping Akridge’s two acres at Buzzard Point for the rights to redevelop the Frank D. Reeves Center at 14th and U streets, Northwest. That component died last week when the Council, led by Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, removed the Reeves Center from the bargain after concluding its enviable location was undervalued in the original stadium plan.
Even with Akridge’s land still in flux, DC’s soccer crazies are already celebrating. United is hosting a party to fete the stadium deal at Penn Social at 2 PM, because soccer fandom apparently includes getting drunk in the middle of a workday to toast a public-private partnership.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.