Greater Greater Washington

DC United and the University of Maryland: a perfect match

DC United might leave Washington entirely due to lack of a suitable and sustainable stadium. Embedded in the UMD campus plan could be the key: A new stadium which serves both DC United and Maryland soccer.

DC United has been playing at 50-year old RFK stadium since 1996 and the facility is literally crumbling. After numerous agreements with local governments that fell apart at the 11th hour, the trail towards self-funding a new stadium in the region has seemingly gone cold.

When I was a senior at the University of Maryland in 2003, I saw a scale model of the Campus Master Plan. It includes provisions for a soccer stadium (PDF) on top of what is currently a surface parking lot in the back corner of campus. The site is on the south side of the new field hockey/lacrosse stadium and also adjacent to the Comcast Center basketball arena. This could be ideal for DC United.

The site in question would require no new roads or infrastructure to be specially built. That part of campus is tucked away from the academic uses and is currently used for parking and varsity/club athletics. It already has the infrastructure in place for large events. DCU could market using the Green Line, much like the Nats Stadium does, although some fans will want to drive if they're coming from far away.

The site is about a 20 minute walk from the Green Line but will be less than 10 minutes from the future Purple Line stations at East Campus and Campus Center. (The University currently runs free shuttles to and from the Metro all day every day.) It is also right next to the Paint Branch Trail bike path.

There also are some new apartments with ground-floor retail on Route 1 behind the stadium site, which are on the way from the Metro. Those new buildings have restaurants and pubs in them that are certain to enjoy greater patronage from future soccer fans on the way to and from the game.

Attendance for UMD soccer is currently over the capacity of Ludwig Field, its current facility. They now draw up to 8,000 spectators. After multiple expansions to temporary seating structures, Ludwig's capacity is about 7,000. During my time as an undergraduate, I heard about how University of Maryland Athletics was dreaming of having a true soccer facility so they could host games and make revenue from prestigious events such as the ACC championship and the NCAA Final Four. However, those prestigious events require that their host facilities have an enclosed press box and locker rooms. Unfortunately, Ludwig Field has neither.

Currently, University of Maryland Athletics is running a deficit. Therefore, they can't fund new facilities in the Master Plan. University of Maryland Athletics also wants new revenues to fund their operations. Meanwhile, DC United has been offering to fund the construction of a new stadium for over 10 years. They have sought a public-private partnership that involves the local or state government issuing low-interest municipal bonds that the team would be in charge of paying.

The lower municipal interest rate versus the higher private interest rate is the difference between tens or hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the bond. The Maryland Stadium Authority was set up to mange such projects; as result, they bring in revenue to the government and are funded through fees from events at the facility rather than through taxpayer money. (It was also founded in response to Baltimore's heartbreak over losing the Colts in the 1980's because of a situation that was very similar to United's.)

Under such a public-private partnership between DC United and UMD, the University would get a new facility that's on its Campus Master Plan at no cost to their budget. They would get new revenue streams by hosting ACC and NCAA events, along with revenue from DC United events, according to the terms of embracing construction on the University of Maryland campus. Finally, they would have a beautiful new stadium to better attract and accommodate more fans for their own soccer teams than their present facility can hold.

The more events a stadium hosts, the more revenue it brings in for all stakeholders. In addition to more revenue from hosting college sporting events, UMD and DCU would make revenue per the terms of their agreement for 60 additional events a year. As I wrote back in January:

Between its Major League Soccer regular season games, U.S. Open Cup, CONCACAF (North American) Championships, and friendlies, DC United holds approximately 30 games during the season. Other events would want to use the facility too, such as the U.S. National Men's and Women's soccer teams, concerts, college sports, other pro sports, etc. 60 events a year is a reasonable estimate. The schedule for the Los Angeles Galaxy's soccer stadium, the Home Depot Center, illustrates the diversity of events held.
DC United's competitor, the Los Angeles Galaxy has a similar existing arrangement with Cal State-Dominguez Hills as the Home Depot Center is built on the campus. The Home Depot Center represents how a medium-sized professional sports venue built on a college campus can be beneficial for all stakeholders.

The solution to two separate problems often rests with the two parties working together. DC United has been looking to fund building a 20,000 seat soccer stadium for over a decade. The University of Maryland has wanted a new soccer stadium for almost as long, as expressed in the Campus Master Plan, and they currently lack the funds to build it themselves even though their own soccer team has outgrown its present facility.

DC United is in the eleventh hour of getting out of a bad stadium arrangement that threatens their very existence. The land and infrastructure at UMD is already in place. The Maryland Stadium Authority brings professional stadium project management to the table. Both parties have exactly what the other wants and a 20,000 seat soccer stadium will bring in revenue for all at no taxpayer expense. It's also a smart growth project, located close to existing Metro infrastructure, the future Purple Line (boosting ridership projections and making the project even more competitive for Federal funding), existing parking, and existing road infrastructure that already handle accommodate large sporting events.

Bonus: there'd be no argument over the stadium color scheme.

Disclosure: I'm a member of the Barra Brava, an iconic independent DC United supporters' group. I am also a University of Maryland alum and a member of the Alumni Association.

Cavan Wilk became interested in the physical layout and economic systems of modern human settlements while working on his Master's in Financial Economics. His writing often focuses on the interactions between a place's form, its economic systems, and the experiences of those who live in them. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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As much as I would like to keep DC United in DC, this actually seems to make perfect sense.

by Dave Murphy on Nov 16, 2011 10:33 am • linkreport

I agree with Dave. There are so many options which seem potentially viable in the District. However, if they are not, then this seems like the best possible solution.

One issue may be the dispensation of alcohol on a college campus as it pertains to NCAA rules. They obviously wouldn't be able to sell beer during a U-MD game, but, could they for DCU?

My first choice would be at Florida Rock/SW DC, but this would be an entirely workable situation if the stakeholders are interested.

by Andrew on Nov 16, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

DC United has never been a priority for DC since the Williams administration. This is far from a perfect solution but it may end up being the only viable one. It's the challenge you face when you don't have an owner with deep pockets. A part of me still holds out some hope for the Buzzard Point site but I realize that realistically that probably won't happen either. The Baltimore relocation and rebranding plan is still very much on the table and if that gains any traction that urban location is still preferable for MLS rather than trying to shoehorn United onto an isolated (there's no reason to be anywhere near College Park without UMD) suburban college campus. The Home Depot Center was built where it was because that was the only possibility at the time when MLS was still quite nascent. MLS has been hurt by Pizza Hut Park and Dick Sporting Goods Park and their far-flung locations and the priority since then has been to build as close to downtown as possible. This possibility is only around because every other option in DC, Virginia, and most of Maryland has already been exhausted.

by Mike O on Nov 16, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

This is a good idea, but there are a few roadblocks that would have to be overcome.

First off, the UMD athletic department is in major debt. Up to 8 sports will be totally cut this year, and while soccer is not one of those sports, there will no money to spend on facilities for the near future. That means that UMD would be unable to pay any of the costs associated with this project, which could make it a non-starter. In any case, the funding would have to very creative on this.

Second, the UMD admin has been very reluctant to allow the sale of alcohol on campus, even for example, in the luxury boxes at Byrd Stadium. Without full alcohol sales, this stadium simply does not happen.

Third, I imagine the City of College Park would throw a fit over this (traffic, etc), and they can't be ignored, especially if state money is involved.

But, there is some precedent for pro sports using UMD facilities. The USFL Baltimore Stars played at Byrd Stadium for one season, and the minor league baseball Bowie Baysox actually played a season at Maryland's tiny Shipley Field (and yes, home run records were shattered).

Now, if you want to get real bold...How about stick with College Park but use the airport property. The College Park airport is dead. The post-9-11 airspace restrictions have made it nearly impossible to fly into or out of. It basically has one current tenant, the County Police helicopter. So what you have is a large area of land, right next to the Metro station that is sitting unused while a bunch of old planes rust away on the grass. I know it is a historic airport and all, so keep the museum, but turn the land into something useful.

by seaster on Nov 16, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

Andrew - or Cavan - do you know how LA Galaxy handles the Beer sales at their games? I'm sure they could do something like the Nats did when the Pope visited the stadium last year.

Or - maybe the easier analogy would be: how does the Verizon Center handle alcohol sales when Georgetown plays?

by Shipsa01 on Nov 16, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

Mike O, I wouldn't call UMD far-flung. Pizza Hut Park is over an hour drive on a highway from the city limits of Dallas. And Dallas, like most Texas cities is very, very spread out. Its city limit is in a place whose place in the region is comparable to somewhere in Anne Arundel County. UMD is on the Green Line and it will have the Purple Line running through it in the future. Any place that is hooked to its city's fixed rail system isn't remote. While it's not downtown, it's still very accessable.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

Shipsa, both the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA sell beer at games.

Seaster, the thing about this solution is that the campus is state land. While the city and county can comment and work the Campus Master Plan, only the University has final say. Also, the site is located in a place that already hosts large sporting events. It won't change any traffic at all.

Finally, the beauty of this solution is that UMD doesn't have to spend money to make it work. That's why I wrote the post. Both parties get what they want. UMD supplies land and DCU supplies funds.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

What about W. Hyattsville Metro? Not on campus, but close, and closer to DC than a UMD stadium. It's got a large, already built in Hispanic market. It allows PG county to pursue a goal of TOD around Metro stations, and gives a needed boost to the inner suburbs(the shops on Queens Chapel, Ager Rd. and Chillum Rd. are begging for denser development!) Downside is it's slightly tougher for UMD students to get to games.

by thump on Nov 16, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

College Park may as well be the moon for many of the 60% of fans from DC and VA (myself included). An hour on the metro plus a 20 minute walk isn't exactly a selling point.

Also, re: traffic, the fact that large sporting events currently occur in the area does not change the fact that you're proposing new use that you estimate producing 60 events per year (is LA really a good comp, given the weather?). Adding 60 new events will certainly have a traffic impact.

All told, I'd say you might want to take your Barra Brava and UMD glasses off to provide a more objective analysis.

by reader on Nov 16, 2011 11:13 am • linkreport

reader, why is it the moon? It's not like Arlington County or Falls Church is the moon for us.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

This seems to make total sense, but seaster seems to be making a very good case why it will never happen.

by Jasper on Nov 16, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

@Cavan

UMD = stix

That's why

by TGEOA on Nov 16, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

Great idea, I'd rather see a combo football stadium/MLS stadium at one of the DC universities, but I recognize that that is much less likely to happen.

by David C on Nov 16, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

TGEOA, by your estimate, Arlington County would be the stix too. I fail to see how anything inside the beltway is in the stix as you say.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport

Yeah, that's really not very accessible to anyone in DC or NoVA. Then again, maybe most of DC United's fans are in MD? I have no idea.

But if I'm going to travel that far on the metro, I certainly don't want to have to walk 20 minutes too--or transfer to the Purple line and walk another 10 minutes, for that matter. Siting the stadium there is going to mean that pretty much everybody drives.

by Gray on Nov 16, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

This makes perfect sense. It's mutually beneficial for both DC United and the Terps. DC United would front most of the cost, as they have been offering to do for years. UMd would have to get over their "no alcohol sales on campus" rules, but they could use LA as precedent and that's a small concession to having a new stadium essentially built for them. As for traffic, etc, DC United games bring in around 25k people at the most, Byrd Stadium seats 50,000+ and is trying to seat 60k. So, the football people have already blazed any traffic drama trails with the city.

by Ben on Nov 16, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

@Shipsa01 - Verizon Center does not have any alcohol restrictions during Georgetown games. Students who are 21+ get wristbands (I think); otherwise, the arena operates its concessions as if it were a non-college event.

by jg on Nov 16, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

The difference with the Verizon center is that it is not on camput. During NCAA tournament games the beer taps are turned off.

by ah on Nov 16, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport

The arguments are good, but I'm not convinced about all the other events. Byrd stadium to start is an alternative venue for concerts and some other sporting events (e.g., lacrosse) if those wanted to come to the UMD campus. And otherwise there are many other venues in the area that would compete for these events. Not saying none of them would come, but it seems a bit optimistic.

by ah on Nov 16, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

@Cavan:

I think you'd have the same issues with putting a stadium for a DC team, say, a twenty minute walk from the West Falls Church station. Just because it's inside the beltline doesn't mean that it's not really far from points in DC. And even coming from Rosslyn, that would take about as long for me to get to as it takes to get to the Nats stadium.

Google maps is telling me that it would take me 47 minutes to go from Foggy Bottom station to College Park station. Even without a transfer, going from Gallery Place to College Park is almost half an hour. And you think that DC fans are going to do that, then take a boring 20 minute walk through College Park to a stadium?

by Gray on Nov 16, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

Gray, I don't think you understand the broader situation here. United is in danger of leaving or just being contracted. The D.C. government does nothing to work with them to find a solution they the team funds. Mayor Grey doesn't even answer United's calls. If it's between losing the team and transferring to the Purple Line from the Green Line which option is better?!?

It takes me 45 mins to go from Silver Spring to Stadium-Armory. I'm not the only fan whose in that boat. There are plenty of fans who drive 45 minutes to RFK too. I don't think 45 mins is too crazy.

We're not talking about going to the grocery store here. It's a special attraction.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

I see DC United moving to Baltimore before UMD would have the capital funds to build a new stadium on the College Park campus.

by CB on Nov 16, 2011 12:31 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure this has been addressed 100% (and objectively - not by a Barra Brava fan or Alex B) on here before, but I would love to hear the story behind Cavan's assertion that the DC government has done nothing to work with DCU. I'm not denying the fact, but would just like to know the full background. I thought they were really trying to help with the Poplar Point site (or at least the Fenty Administration) and now that he's gone, is when the attention dropped off.

by Shipsa01 on Nov 16, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

CB - I think you're missing Cavan's point that it wouldn't cost the University anything because DCU would pick up the costs.

But your assertion makes a different point though - would MLS like this? Or would they rather see the team play (physically) in a city? Have they (MLS) weighed in at all?

by Shipsa01 on Nov 16, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

Virginia provides the DCU fan base. They ain't gonna drive around the chicane beltway on a regular basis, plain and simple.

by TGEOA on Nov 16, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

Shipsa, MLS leaves the stadium question to the teams. There are other teams that are outside the city limits but on fixed rail transit. New York's stadium is on the PATH in Harrison, NJ. The Philadelphia Union is located in Chester, PA on a SEPTA regional rail line. Being outside the city limits and on the city's fixed rail system is much better than relocating.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

To all who keep harping on the 20 minute walk, as the author pointed out "the University currently runs free shuttles to and from the Metro all day every day." No walking.

If you live in DC, you walk that much probably 3 times a day.

25 minute Green Line train from Gallery Place to Greenbelt. 34 minutes via Metro Center. Both times set to arrive at 7pm tonight (assumes a weeknight DCU game).

by ckstevenson on Nov 16, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

as a lifelong United season ticket holder, and Vienna, VA resident for the last 12 years, I like this idea better than Baltimore, but only a little.

by Steve-O on Nov 16, 2011 1:03 pm • linkreport

"United is in danger of leaving or just being contracted. The D.C. government does nothing to work with them to find a solution they the team funds."

No it isn't. They've tried multiple times to leave DC and the simple fact of the matter is no one wants them, or can afford them. Otherwise, they would already be gone.

There just isn't public money to build rich people toys. It is neawrly a non-starter in great economic times and this is not nor has been a great economic time. What is it that DC United doesn't understand?

Why is it that soccer owners and fans think that a city that has run nearly 2 billion dollars in budget deficits the past 4 years, should spend money it clearly doesn't have on this?

If you want to take the same approach that was taken for the baseball stadium and get the Districts largest businesses to agree to pay a "baseball" tax (which has actually been providing a surplus to the city)to fund the soccer stadium then fine. Otherwise, they really have to quit whining about it because people don't like to hear the obscenely wealthy complain that tax payers won't buy them crap when the economy sucks for everyone.

by freely on Nov 16, 2011 1:04 pm • linkreport

@TGEOA
Do you have any evidence that there are more United fans from VA than MD? Where are you even getting that? In fact I would think it's just the opposite.

by Doug on Nov 16, 2011 1:09 pm • linkreport

freely, please read my post again. I talked about how the team would fund construction through paying the service on municipal bonds.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

freely, for starters this would not be a stadium for rich people. It would be a stadium for a public university. That university would then rent it to DC United at times. If DC United folded, the state via the University would still own the stadium which they can still use for University soccer and other events. You're free to get angry about this if you want, but you might as well be angry at vampires.

On the subject of beer. I know that the Erwin Center at the University of Texas sells beer for non-college events. That should be a non-problem.

by David C on Nov 16, 2011 1:24 pm • linkreport

Cavan,

The University Master Plan is a meaningless document without state money, and state money doesn't get spent on a project that will impact the City of College Park without input from the state delegates and senators that represent College Park. Who votes in College Park? Students, no. Long-term residents who generally oppose all growth, yes. Remember these are the long-term residents that have basically let College Park rot into what it is today. The ones that fought for decades against the College Park Metro Station (for example), and who to this day won't let the UMD shuttle buses use the West Side of the station, even though it is closer to campus.

by seaster on Nov 16, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

seaster, UMD Athletics is self-sufficient. They don't get funding from Annapolis. Any new athletic facilities are either required to come from their own funds or from a public-private partnership. Why is the Comcast Center the Comcast Center rather than the Williams Center? UMD Athletics needed the naming rights money to complete building the arena.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

Alcohol calcification.
NCAA rules prohibit alcohol sales only during post season games. No restrictions any other times. No booze rules are University rules, local law or state law. For UMD I believe it is only a University rule, which should be easily changed.

by RJ on Nov 16, 2011 1:55 pm • linkreport

Thanks, RJ. A bit of an aside, but does that apply to College Football Bowl Games as well?

by Shipsa01 on Nov 16, 2011 1:57 pm • linkreport

Cavan,

Both the Comcast Center (and the parking garage, a separate project) and the UMD Softball complex were built with money from the MD Stadium Authority. That is state money. The Comcast naming rights were on top of that (and part of a larger partnership with the university as a whole).

The UMD Ath Dept has an $8 million debt against $54 million in revenues. Four major revenue sources (football tickets, Byrd Stadium suites, basketball tickets, and Terrapin Club donations) are all bringing in far less than expected and will continue to do so for the near future. So without outside money, nothing gets built for the near future.

by seaster on Nov 16, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

@seaster

"outside money" = DCU

by Andrew on Nov 16, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

seaster, the Maryland Stadium Authority doesn't build stadiums. It issues bonds and manages the projects. Those bonds are being paid for by UMD Athletics. Taxpayers didn't provide any money for the basketball, softball, or field hockey facilities.

As for your second paragraph, please read my post again. The reason why I wrote it is because DCU has funding and UMD Athletics has land. They both have what the other needs to build something that they both want, a new soccer stadium. United would pay the bonds issued by the Maryland Stadium Authority in exchange for being able to build. UMD would allow DCU to build on their site in exchange for funding it.

Any other comments that were already addressed in the post?

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

Shipsa01,

Football is a different animal. NCAA does not control FBS (DIV 1) Football’s post season games. Hence the crystal football does not say NCAA as other NCAA college sports national championship trophies do. They do control DivII and DviIII football playoffs.

by RJ on Nov 16, 2011 2:19 pm • linkreport

No idea if it'd be popular enough to do it, but Metro could run some Grosvenor -> Greenbelt trains at game time, just like they presently run a few Blue Line trains to the Verizon Center during big events.

by andrew on Nov 16, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

@RJ:

Football is a different animal. NCAA does not control FBS (DIV 1) Football’s post season games. Hence the crystal football does not say NCAA as other NCAA college sports national championship trophies do. They do control DivII and DviIII football playoffs.

Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) is run by the NCAA as well: http://media.kitsapsun.com/media/img/photos/2011/01/07/20110107-214252-pic-450373855_t607.jpg

by Dizzy on Nov 16, 2011 3:03 pm • linkreport

andrew - I don't think they have the track to do that route. Am I wrong? They could do Yellow or Blue to Greenbelt, but I think that's about it.

by Shipsa01 on Nov 16, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

@Shipsa

They used to do something similar before the inner Green Line was finished, called the Green Line Commuter Shortcut. It uses a short single-track connector between the Red and Green lines near Fort Totten.

See Sand Box John's track map:

http://mysite.verizon.net/cambronj/wmata/sys_schematic_ars.gif

It's the B and E connector.

Running revenue service on it would be tricky with any sort of train frequencies. The Shortcut worked because trains coming in from Greenbelt were essentially at the end of the line, therefore using the crossover to get to the red line wasn't a problem since you didn't have to worry about trains coming in the other direction. That's not the case anymore.

by Alex B. on Nov 16, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

@Shipsa01, I seem to recall that before the Mt. Vernon Square-Fort Totten leg of the Green Line was finished, Metro ran some trains from Grosvenor to Greenbelt.

by cminus on Nov 16, 2011 3:19 pm • linkreport

Thanks Alex for pointing that out - very useful info!

by Shipsa01 on Nov 16, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

so the idea is to let United assume all costs, and charge them rent to use their own multi-million dollar facility?

by stu on Nov 16, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

Stu, the details of revenue streams would have to be worked out at the negotiating table. I was purposefully sketchy about revenue details because I don't have access to DCU's books and I also don't know exactly what terms would be acceptable to each party.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

Thoughts:

1. On the issue of UMD's debt position, I would go further than Cavan: MSA and DCU would build the stadium, *and* probably pay modest rent to use the land it sits on. Not only would it not worsen UMD's debt position, it would likely improve it. This is actually a point in favor, not against.

2. Any MSA bonding does indeed have to pass in Annapolis. Which means the locals will get a say. Indeed, that's what killed the Morgan Blvd proposal. My impression having gone down there was that State House liked the idea, but wasn't going to go over PG County Council's heads. This time, I could see it going through even over the locals' heads though, because it would be a chance to help the University and to generate some entertainment revenues and ancillary taxes at the expense of the District at a single stroke, all without any blatant handouts or huge tax abatements.

3. I've seen the market research saying that just over half of DCU's fanbase is in VA. Some of those would drop out (for a few, the inconvenience wouldn't increase that much). DCU would definitely have to turn over a portion of the fanbase, focusing on MD instead. But MSA's study on the subject for Morgan Blvd was fairly enthusiastic about the prospects for that, as compared to being pretty lukewarm about Baltimore.

by Sgc on Nov 16, 2011 3:35 pm • linkreport

This is an interesting proposal. I think it could work, though a comprehensive transportation plan is needed. And, quite frankly, this may be one of the United's only options other than leaving the region entirely. I do not believe Baltimore will be an option for the team.

The study done last year by Crossroads Consulting was lukewarm to the success of the team in Baltimore and basically said that a new stadium may be feasible if built by the city/state and paired with a larger multi-use residential/commercial/entertainment complex, but that it would be a risk to the team. The study found that 80% of the United's sponsors and advertisers oppose the move to Baltimore (no shit, they paid money to be in the DC media market), and 50% of the team's fan base comes from Virginia, the remainder split between DC and MD. And for a team whose fan base is 1/3 Hispanic, the Baltimore area is barely 3% Hispanic (90k people) compared to 12% Hispanic (670k) in the DC area.

So the United needs to find a solution in the DC area or pick and leave the region entirely to an area that has the money to spend on a new soccer stadium. Good luck.

by Adam L on Nov 16, 2011 3:35 pm • linkreport

Gotcha, and thanks for clarification. Personally, I'm not opposed to the model other than losing jobs in DC, however few. All I know is this, whoever lands a partnership with United is going to benefit. Shame our past and current administrations here in DC are too blind to see it. They drove the NFL franchise away, why not MLS', eh? Thanks for the article. I reposted to http://www.facebook.com/pages/DC-United-Needs-A-New-Stadium/256176884425714

by stu on Nov 16, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport

@Doug

50% are from Virginia according to the market analysis: http://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/pdf/Baltimore%20soccer%20stadium%20study.pdf

by Adam L on Nov 16, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport

@stu,

What DC United would gain from the deal:

1) The rent would likely be lower than what land would cost on the open market.
2) MSA bonds are issued at preferential interest rates
3) Since the land is publicly owned, no property tax

by Sgc on Nov 16, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport

Sgc, just a little comment about the locals getting a say on MSA bonds. Prince George's County would get a say through their state delegation. This one would be out of the County Council's hands because the land is state land and therefore not subject to county jurisdiction.

It's also worth noting that the Prince George's state delegation and the County Council often have very different views. Back in '09, the state delegation was very much in favor of the stadium study while the County Council killed it. The state delegation was unhappy about it and also deeply unhappy with why they did it.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 4:01 pm • linkreport

True. It's just that in the case of the Morgan Blvd proposal, NIMBYs and tax guardians raised such a stink (and the Council passed a unanimous resolution against the stadium) that State House chose not to pursue the issue any further. But economically and location-wise, it was a different proposal than this one would be.

by Sgc on Nov 16, 2011 4:07 pm • linkreport

And Stu, I know I've shown extreme bias about this in the past, but don't lament the fact that we lost "our" NFL franchise to PG County in any way. Not to rehash a different thread, but it would be a terrible - like MONUMENTAL terrible - decision to bring them back to DC.

The parallels between a football stadium (NFL) and soccer just aren't there. When I think of a soccer stadium, I think of something like the Verizon center that could be used many many times and be incorporated into the city. When I think of a football stadium, I think of ... well any football stadium, from Fedex to Giants to Cowboys to even the ones in like Cincy or Seattle that try hard to incorporate into their neighborhoods. It just doesn't work.

And I say that as someone who has never gone to a professional soccer game, who probably never will, who will only watch soccer every four years during the world cup and who watches both college and pro football Thursday through Monday from August to January.

by Shipsa01 on Nov 16, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

"They have sought a public-private partnership that involves the local or state government issuing low-interest municipal bonds that THE TEAM WOULD BE IN CHARGE OF PAYING."

Seriously, do you honestly think that enoguh people in this country, let alone the D.C. area, care that much about soccer to actually fill the stadium during every match and allow the team to pay off the bonds? Be realistic here. I think professional wrestling is more popular then soccer here. Just keep playing at RFK. Allt hey need is a grass field and locker rooms.

by Victor Kwon on Nov 16, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

Victor Kwan read this: http://www.examiner.com/soccer-in-national/soccer-attendance-overtakes-nba-now-no-3-sport-usa

You might not like the sport. I do. That is subjective opinion. However, you don't have subjective facts. The attendence numbers are there. RFK stadium is literally crumbling.

More importantly there is money to be made off the sport. I'm apathetic towards football and baseball but that doesn't mean that there isn't money to be made off of those who love those sports. Same with soccer. Just because you're not a fan doesn't mean that there isn't a proven track record that soccer can make money if it's in an appropriate stadium.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 4:22 pm • linkreport

RE: 20 minute walk from CP metro to campus...

Yes, there is a free UMD bus open to the public at all times... but additionally, for certain athletic events, there's a free express bus that takes you right from the metro to the stadium. Would obviously be highly used in this arrangement.

by Testudo on Nov 16, 2011 4:28 pm • linkreport

@Adam
That document you linked actually shows only 48% of ticket sales are to Virginians. Which means the remaining ticket purchasers must be from our side of the Potomac. Since DC itself is rightfully part of Maryland anyway it's clear that the majority of DC United ticket purchases are indeed from Maryland. Not to mention it's a well known fact that s sizeable percentage of those Virginians are ticket scalpers. Which is probably for the best though, we've already got to many Virginians wandering around DC whistling dixie and spitting tabacco everywhere. Bunch of damn traitors anyway, don't think we've forgotten about that you rebel scum!!

by Doug on Nov 16, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

Doug, I don't think that joke came out as good in text as it was in your mind. The first half of your comment was very relevant. The second, not so much.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 5:13 pm • linkreport

@Cavan
I agree, I think the last sentence was a definitely a bit redundant. I don't think it's the text though, it would have sounded just as stupid if I said it out loud.

At last some small portion of my comment was relevant though, unlike your reply :P

by Doug on Nov 16, 2011 6:33 pm • linkreport

Similarly, DC United could work with GMU and build a United/GMU Soccer/GMU Football Stadium. The 50% VA fans stat is interesting, and no one should underestimate how much folks DO NOT want to travel two hours (let's be real that's how long it takes) at rush hour to get from Fairfax to College Park to see a soccer game. But on the other hand, if you build the stadium in Fairfax you probably lose most of the MD fans.

Travelling between MD and VA is a full-blown NIGHTMARE, so any move out of DC and DC United is either a VA-centric or MD based team. If they can't get a stadium built either in DC proper or Arlington/Alexandria city, then probably the best thing to do for them is go to Baltimore and call it a day. Baltimore United, and the VA fan base drops from 50% to less than 5%.

Of course the other option is to build a couple new bridges connecting the burbs via the ICC and the FCP, but due to the ongoing WAR between Dulles and BWI, that isn't likely.

by stevek_fairfax on Nov 16, 2011 9:19 pm • linkreport

stevek_fairfax, I fail to see how Saturday evening games become infeasible with a move to UMD.

How is Arlington or Alexandria any different for Marylanders and people in upper NE/NW DC than College Park is for Virginians? Somehow Virginians still go to 'Skins games.

And no, you wouldn't lose most of the Maryland fans in Fairfax. Maybe for weeknight games but certainly not for Saturdays.

Your talk about Arlington and Alexandria is also not going to happen. Remember that the 'Skins couldn't build in Virginia. The local jurisdictions all say no and the state has no professional stadium management agency like Maryland.

My post is about a feasible solution, not pipe dreams and what if scenarios. This is serious time. Dreaming about a stadium in Crystal City or Potomac yards was fine 10 years ago. Today, it's pretty well established that no stadiums will ever get built in Northern Virginia.

by Cavan on Nov 16, 2011 10:07 pm • linkreport

2 quick questions - (1) RFK is literally crumbling, right? If DCU does get a stadium, where are they going to play while the stadium is being built? Is it fine for at least a few years? And if so, doesn't that mean the team could theoretically stay in RFK for a year or so (playing devil's advocate here - and totally realize that just pushes off a decision, which city officials love and DCU would hate)?

(2) This is BY FAR not a solution in any shape way or form, but ... how about renting from Danny-boy and using Fedex Field? Has that already been thoroughly dismissed?

by Shipsa01 on Nov 16, 2011 10:20 pm • linkreport

Stevek... i work in Fairfax by GMU and live 2 miles from UMD. It takes me a little over an hour to go home at nights. Of course i do not use the beltway. Traffic via 66 into DC then up Rhode Island Avenue is pretty light. Going to GMU from DC and MD at same time would definitely take 2 hours.

by mighty on Nov 16, 2011 10:25 pm • linkreport

I live in Montgomery Village, above Gaithersurg. We only have one car (plus I hate driving) so I leave it to my wife in case she needs it to do things with the kids etc. It takes me 90 minutes to get to RFK with Ride On bus to Shady Grove + metro. On the return, when trains and buses are less often, it takes me normally about 120 minutes, slightly less if I am very lucky. I do this basically at almost all home games. I am happy to do it because I feel lucky to have a pro soccer team that I can go see during the year, and not too many places in the US have this possibility. I feel very lucky. To go to CP/UMD wouldn't really represent more of a challenge than it does now. Baltimore would be really tough. A place nowhere in sight of a metro stop would be a killer. I would take CP/UMD in a nanosecond.

by Theo on Nov 16, 2011 11:56 pm • linkreport

Mighty - over an hour to get 2 miles FROM UMD, and you are snaking around every side street in the book. Add the last two niles near campus (a lot of night classes at either UMD or GMU, a line into the stadium parking lot, walking accross the parking lot, and you are at an hour 45 minutes easy door to door. Add to that the fact that most folks would just say "screw it" and get on the beltway through Tysons and over the ALB...almost 2 hours with average congestion.

Nothing is wrong with RFK structurally...cosmetically it could use maintenence, and the team doesn't own it so they don't receive as much revenue from games as if they did, but it's not "crumbling". It's in a great location for a large stadium, it's right on a central metro station, anyone in the region can access it in about 45 minutes...why not fix it up keep playing there?

The Redskins should have kept playing there too.

by stevek_fairfax on Nov 17, 2011 2:01 am • linkreport

Stevek, the NPS owns RFK and the city manages it. The city has let it get so derelict that it would be cheaper to raze it and build a new facility. However, the NPS owns the land and has plans other than a stadium. The land would also require years of environmental study and cleanup as it was built on filled in wetland.

Again, this is about a solution. I'm not holding it out as some ideal. At this 11th hour of losing the team altogether, it's about finding a sustainable solution. My idea certainly has that potential.

by Cavan on Nov 17, 2011 9:04 am • linkreport

@steven_fairfax

What light rail, bus and Metro infrastructure would a GMU based stadium align with?

And yes, RFK is crumbling. There are chunks of concrete that have fallen from the roof and walls, just to start.

by William on Nov 17, 2011 9:09 am • linkreport

RFK isn't crumbling, it is in accessible and they really don't pay that much in rent. A new stadium give DCU much greater profitability and increases corporate value.

by mikedc on Nov 17, 2011 9:54 am • linkreport

I don't know what some posters here are talking about. RFK has been crumbling - literally - for years. Pieces of concrete have fallen near spectators and holes have appeared in the floors. The place is 50 years old, and is very close to the end of its useful life. It can be patched up and used for a few more years, but only while something else is being built.

And mikedc, DCU pays the highest rent in the league, and takes in the least in terms of concessions and parking. It's a bad deal that needs to be fixed.

by Matt Mathai on Nov 17, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

@Stevek

Nothing is wrong with RFK structurally

Well, this depends on a couple of things. Is the stadium in danger of falling down? No. But the problems go well beyond mere cosmetics. An example: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/09/rfk_continues_to_fall_apart.html

Likewise, renovating RFK would cost a great deal simply because RFK is old (you'd spend a lot on things like asbestos removal) and you still wouldn't solve the fundamental issues with RFK's economic obsolescence. There's a reason why the Redskins and Nats both left.

@mikedc

RFK isn't crumbling, it is in accessible and they really don't pay that much in rent.

It's a great location, no doubt. But DCU does indeed pay a great deal in rent. They pay more than any other team in MLS, and in return bring in less revenue than any other team. Part of it is the structure of the deal (DC gets most of the parking and concession revenue, for example, not the team) and part of it is the fact that RFK's facilities are incapable of generating the kind of revenue that a soccer-specific facility could. The other problem is that RFK's age and its size (too big for what United needs) means that it has higher operating costs.

The stadium is economically obsolete, period. RFK was the first of the 'donut' multi-purpose stadiums. There's a reason that no one builds those anymore, and that's because the design compromises required mean that the stadium can't excel at serving the needs of any one tenant.

The governance of RFK is an anachronism of home rule. The stadium predates home rule for DC, so it was built federally (that's why the land is still federal) but with a clear local purpose. There's room for a larger discussion of federal-local relations here, as well.

My personal preference for a stadium site would be RFK's current lot 3, just to the north of the Armory. That's higher ground and not fill, so it would hopefully avoid most of the environmental issues. It would also nicely mirror the Armory (which could hopefully be repurposed as more of an entertainment venue and less of an actual armory) from an urban design perspective, and it would take advantage of all of the existing infrastructure on the site. I think it's an idea that makes a lot of sense, and it's a shame that such an idea isn't explored in more detail because of anachronistic governance and various agency turf battles.

/rant

by Alex B. on Nov 17, 2011 10:51 am • linkreport

@Theo's response was pretty illuminating:

To go to CP/UMD wouldn't really represent more of a challenge than it does now.

Exactly. Aside from a tiny sliver of DCU's fan base, the move to College Park is either a wash, or a barrier to attending. Something like 17% of DCU's fans are DC residents, and probably *more* transit dependent than the DC population in general.

While driving from Springfield or Tyson's to RFK is a pain in the ass, it's that much worse to get to College Park.

One of the more attractive parts of going to a DCU game is the pre- and post-game festivities on H Street. Somehow "The Vu" just won't have the same attraction. DCU has spent more than a decade building up this complex ecosytem of fans from across the region, and across socioeconomic classes. It's hard to see how such a wrenching change won't be disruptive to all that.

It's just a shame that the forces of Old DC are so busy trying to put money in Dan Snyder's pocket that they disregard what's become a real community benefit.

by oboe on Nov 17, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

oboe, I actually agree with what you said. I'm just trying to find some kind of solution. It's a heck of a lot better than the team moving or ceasing to exist. I will send out snail mail to relevant parties. This isn't about what should happen would what we'd like to happen. It's about what can and will happen.

by Cavan on Nov 17, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport

I'd also note that for current VA DCU fans, getting to RFK isn't that bad. Come in on 395 to the SE/SW freeway, get off at Barney Circle, and they open the RFK access road right into Lot 8. Via Metro, Stadium-Armory is a hell of a lot closer to the core transfer points than College Park is, and the stadium/tailgating is a lot shorter of a walk.

Oboe is exactly right about the fanbase, however. DCU games are a great cross-section of the community. From H St to Lot 8, they're always a lot of fun.

by Alex B. on Nov 17, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

There is no question that being in DC is ideal, precisely because it is fairly central, and within an hour for almost any commute. Moving in any direction outside the city changes that dynamic. Virginia has limited transit options, and is a nightmare for Marylanders to get to. The American Legion Bridge and the Beltway are bad enough now. Add another 5,000 cars at rush hour trying to get to a game? It's not that I would be against going to games there -- it's a question of whether I could logistically make it happen, or whether I would just be stuck in traffic cursing the fact that there is no radio broadcast. I imagine College Park ain't a whole lot better for Metro riders, as the Green Line is a slow slog and the station isn't close to the proposed site. Also, while people do go to Byrd Stadium by car, that doesn't mean the infrastructure is really up to it. College Park is a lot closer for me than RFK, but I imagine it would take me longer to get there going down local roads.

It's doable, and it would be smarter than a move up to Baltimore, but it's hardly ideally located -- at least not without infrastructure improvements to make local roads move more quickly.

by Fischy on Nov 17, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

I just hope it doesn't take people being killed by falling chunks of concrete or a collapsing grandstand to finally close and tear down old raggedy RFK.

by ceefer66 on Nov 17, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

Why do I keep reading about driving in rush hour to go to DC Utd games? Most DCU games are on a saturday nite, the intra-week ones are just some ~3~4 games a season

by Theo on Nov 17, 2011 11:19 pm • linkreport

It is too far from Metro. It is a 2.2 mile and 41 minute walk from the Comcast Center to the College Park Metro. I've done this walk for Terps basketball. Its too far to work.

by Chris Hamilton on Nov 18, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

Chris, did you read my post? There are currently free shuttles from the Metro. The site will also be under a 10 minute walk from the Purple Line.

by Cavan on Nov 18, 2011 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Cavan - I did indeed read your post. As a Maryland alum and big Terps fan it intrigued me. However, I'm a Redskins season ticket holder and a Nats season ticket holder and make it to an occasional United game. I don't consider having to transfer to a shuttle bus as transit accessible. I'm guessing most people will not consider transit unless its a half mile walk from the rail station. And who wants to transfer from Metro to light rail (when it ever gets here). A major activity center should be on Metro or it won't function properly. Thanks for trying though.

by Chris Hamilton on Nov 18, 2011 3:58 pm • linkreport

Depending on MD Law, they could sell alcohol.

The Carolina Panthers played at Clemson's on campus stadium their first season and they allowed it from what I remember. There are also other similar situations to this.

by JQ on Nov 18, 2011 4:25 pm • linkreport

@Chris, what are we gonna do, tear down the Verizon center? After all these years, I think it's more productive to look at what would be an acceptable solution than what would be an ideal one.

@JQ, I've been told it's not MD law, only UMD policy. Who knows how receptive they might be to making an exception or a compromise.

by Sgc on Nov 19, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

"t would also nicely mirror the Armory (which could hopefully be repurposed as more of an entertainment venue and less of an actual armory) "

Fwiw, I was fifteen years old before I realized that the DC Armory had a primary purpose other than simply where they had the Ringling Bros' circus every year.

by Kolohe on Nov 19, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

The MLS is watching events here closely. Yesterday, SI published a long interview with MLS commissioner Don Garber. Towards the end, it includes a question about the DC United stadium situation:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/grant_wahl/11/18/mls.commissioner.interview/2.html

"SI.com: What are the chances of D.C. United playing in Washington D.C. in 2012?

Garber: Very strong. Very strong. I think my comments were misconstrued as if we're trying to move the team. That couldn't be further from the truth. We need to find a stadium solution there, and the folks we're trying to work with don't seem to understand how unfair it is for D.C. United's ownership and their fans and players to be playing in a substandard stadium with a ridiculous deal that doesn't even provide them with in my opinion the basics that teams and players and fans deserve. That said, Kevin Payne and Will Chang are working hard to try and find some solutions, whether they're a better deal with RFK Stadium or a stadium project in D.C. or a stadium project somewhere in the area.

But something needs to happen there. I'd like to see fans come together there like they did in Philly and Portland and almost any market across this country and really bang their fists and start screaming loudly at their political leaders that their team and this league in this sport deserves better. How about Occupy RFK?"

by PS on Nov 19, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

I have a graduate degree from University of Maryland. And I love DC United. I went to 14 DC United games this year, but I would only get to maybe one or two in College Park, which is VERY BADLY connected via public transportation to DC and is generally a nightmare to get to from the city. So DC United loses my money if they go to College Park. Business suicide.

by DC United Fan on Nov 22, 2011 12:02 am • linkreport

With all the respect, but DCU went from an ~16~18K spectators average in the recent past to less than ~13K, what makes you think that if we stay at RFK they'll be back? Do you really think that UMD could really do a lot worse? They could probably lower their ticket prices there, and that would - hopefully - attract more people

by Theo on Nov 23, 2011 12:57 am • linkreport

I'd say the dropoff has been pretty small (a couple thousand per game, as they actually averaged about 15k this year) considering the gigantic cloud that's been hanging over the team. And it's mostly that cloud rather than ticket prices (which are still pretty reasonable) that keeps people away. Lift it, and they're likely to be back (notwithstanding the debate over location, where my belief is that it would entail DC United working to establish more roots on the MD side that will eventually replace those who won't come from VA).

by Sgc on Nov 23, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

Sgc hits the salient points. I'd add that DCU lost 21 games of 35 played last year. It's conceivable that might have had something to do with attendance being down.

by oboe on Nov 23, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

Good point, oboe. Attendence recovered some this year after as the team was competitive for a playoff spot rather than a total mess like in 2010. The dark cloud from the stadium situation plus the team hitting rock bottom on the field explained the low 2010 attendence. Attendence is 16-18k when they're having a winning season.

by Cavan on Nov 23, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

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