Greater Greater Washington

Development


Soccer stadium won't stimulate the economy

Marc Fisher argues that a soccer stadium in Poplar Point won't generate the same level of economic development as the basketball arena or the ballpark for the simple reason that the arena hosts 200 events a year, the stadium 100, while Major League Soccer stadiums are active only 35 times a year (and football stadiums least of all with only 8 games a year).
David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Is there any reason that it can't be used for anything other than MLS soccer matches? perhaps major high school events (DCIAA and private), college sporting events, concerts, other performances? Could it be converted to a football field to handle smaller scale (high school and div II & III) football events in the fall? I find it hard to believe that in a city that attracts so much culture, we can't find a way to make adequate use of a 25,000 person stadium on a scenic riverfront.

by David Murphy on May 29, 2008 2:25 pm • linkreport

The assumption here is that the city's money is being used to build the stadium itself. I still haven't seen official indication that the city is considering doing this, apart from financing.

Instead, it's more likely that the city is willing to contribute infrastructure around stadium, as well as take technical ownership of the land (to diffuse property tax headaches).

It's worth noting that the original idea to develop Poplar Point as a mixed-use neighborhood with a park at its center came FROM DC United itself. Though the owners of DCU wanted such development to be controlled by them (and to be in charge of the whole development, and it's associated profits), they are still on board with Clark Realty as master developer.

The stadium proper will still be paid for and owned by DC United, unlike the baseball stadium, which the District government owns. Fisher continues to get some of his facts wrong, as And Now, Anacostia has pointed out:

http://anacostianow.blogspot.com/2008/05/getting-facts-straight.html

by Jason on May 29, 2008 2:47 pm • linkreport

You could host all sorts of Soccer Tourneys with this thing, have concerts, etc. It is shortsighted to think it will be used for money making ventures only 35 times a year.

by NikolasM on May 29, 2008 3:57 pm • linkreport

You have to remember that Marc Fisher is/was a huge cheerleader for baseball and the baseball stadium. He was all for the District building the Nats a baseball stadium. However, he is not a soccer fan. His opinion of which stadium should be built and which should be ignored is purely because of his opinions of the sports, not the economic issues.

I personally am a huge soccer fan and despise baseball. Is there any surprise that I think that the soccer stadium is a great idea and that the city made a bad decision by building the baseball park?

Moving on to some facts... DC United has always offered to pay the construction costs. They have always asked the city to pay for infrastructure improvements that would be necessary, regardless of what gets built on Poplar Point.

Finally, it was DC United that did all the legwork getting Poplar Point to be turned over to the District. They have been at it since the '90s. It is important that people on both sides of the argument remember that fact.

by Cavan on May 29, 2008 5:33 pm • linkreport

Given the roads that divide Poplar Point from the surrounding areas, it's hard to see how anything there could be that economically helpful to the surrounding areas. IMHO the best thing for it would be to make it more pedestrian-accessible, allow inexpensive restaurants with a mix of indoor and outdoor seating in a corner or two of the area, and let the rest remain green space - just better-maintained.

I still regard the baseball stadium as a boondoggle: by the end of 2005, when the deal was struck, the city had already demonstrated its viability and value as a MLB location. The right to locate a MLB team in D.C., rather than Portland or Jacksonville or Las Vegas, was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The D.C. government simply gave away that value.

I'm trying to understand how a soccer stadium would need $150M in city infrastructure, if the United builds the stadium itself. That seems crazy to me, and I can't see why D.C. would want a soccer team that badly, even in a location that made more sense.

by low-tech cyclist on May 30, 2008 6:21 am • linkreport

low-tech,

Clark Realty's winning proposal for the entire Poplar Point site featured a two-block long deck over 295 to connect it to historic Anacostia. There, the old street grid would mesh with new ones, right at the nexus of the current north entrance to the Anacostia metro (near the parking garage), concurrent with where the soccer stadium would sit.

by Alex B. on May 30, 2008 9:37 am • linkreport

low-tech,

Just to answer your question about $150 million in infrastructure... that infrastructure is primarily roads and sewers. That infrastructure will be built and paid for because there are plans to develop that parcel of land with or without the stadium. Alex B. mentioned Clark Realty's winning bid.

DC already has a soccer team and they draw 20,000 a game. I think the view is to make Anacostia a bit less of a strange place to the rest of the region. Starting with 20,000 soccer fans is a good place to start.

by Cavan on May 30, 2008 9:56 am • linkreport

Cavan: 20,000 fans is a good place to start as long as the fans don't just all drive in, park, and then drive out. If most people take the Green Line to Anacostia or a future streetcar from South Capitol, passing by stores and neighborhoods, great. If DC United pushes for seas of parking, not great.

Fortunately, the Clark proposal doesn't appear to have any surface lots, though they'll probably put garages inside nearby buildings (some parking is ok - a stadium does need some). And Clark was smart enough to put the stadium next to the deck.

by David Alpert on May 30, 2008 10:00 am • linkreport

David,

In reply to your (extremely important) concern about surface parking, at RFK, which is a suburban style surface parking lot surrounded stadium built before the Metro, roughly 50-60% of DC United fans take the Metro. Also, as an extreme contrast to the Nats, between 20 and 33% of United fans are District residents. It's a much, much different fanbase than the Nats. The Nats has an extremely white, suburban fanbase. DC United has fans from all across the spectrum and from all around the region. Also, if you look at the history of United, they have done a lot of work to be accepted by the Ward 8 community and to plan for the stadium to fit in and enhance Ward 8 as much as possible. This is completely different than the MLB who just played "hardball" nonstop.

DC United has never wanted surface parking lots for the new stadium. They have always wanted a true urban stadium. In soccer, urban stadiums tend have the largest homefield advantage and draws large amounts of passionate fans (check out Toronto FC... downtown stadium, passionate adult fans vs FC Dallas who has an exurban stadium and has low-key fans and mediocre attendence). You also have to remember that United was doing grassroots community outreach long before Mr. McFarlane bought the team. Also, we must remember that Mr. McFarlane has made his fortune on largely urban development. His company has done a lot of other urban development elsewhere in the District and inner suburbs. He's an urban developer, not one who mails in cookie cutter strip malls (like the Giant in Congress Heights).

Thank you for reading the comments.

by Cavan on May 30, 2008 1:14 pm • linkreport

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