The Fenty Stadium Initiative: Does This Make Any Sense To Anyone?
The number one topic of conversation today must be the Washington Post's A1 article on Mayor Fenty's pending public support for development of a soccer stadium at Poplar Point. This development is, naturally, being hailed a huge one, even with everyone acknowledging that we are still years away from playing in a home of our own. Certainly there are reasons to hope, but also reasons to be concerned.
Let's start with the key grafs...
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has proposed using public funds to build a professional soccer stadium in Southeast Washington that would cost as much as $190 million, a drastic departure from his stance against public financing of the Nationals baseball stadium...Even if the council agreed to use public money for a soccer stadium, the larger Poplar Point development project is likely to cost much more in public funds. The Clark proposal could cost $200 million to $350 million for infrastructure, including roads, sewers, lights and the park. Some of those costs almost certainly would fall on the city.
There is one unambiguous fact: Mayor Fenty is sincere in his desire for a new stadium. How can we be sure? Because Fenty's plan manages to maximize his vulnerability to any charge of hypocrisy a political opponent would make. The original United initiative did not call for public funds to be used for the construction of the stadium, just infrastructure improvements (which Nakamura puts a $350 million tag on.) In a way, MacFarlane had provided Fenty perfect political cover for supporting a stadium, since public funds would not be used for the construction. Now Fenty has gone further -- the original infrastructure costs are still there, but we're adding $190 million on top of it. Fenty's opposition to the Nats stadium was well documented, and this represents a choice that seems to be in direct opposition with his earlier views. It represents a huge political move that Fenty, had he taken the original United deal, didn't have to necessarily take.
So let's be thankful for Mayor Fenty's support, even if I have no understanding of how he came to this decision. And, admittedly, even I am a little nervous about using public funds to finance the construction of a stadium. I enjoyed the idea that United would build it and that subsidies would be used for infrastructure which would not just benefit the stadium, but the entire development and area.
Which brings us to the following causes for concern: Why did Fenty abandon a way of pursuing the stadium that would have given him cover for a more politically risky (to him, at least) method? Who will own the stadium? How many people who were okay with infrastructure improvements suddenly rebel against public financing for the stadium itself, and will soccer prove an easier target to kick (hah!) than baseball? I don't know. This is not the development (in any sense of the word) that I expected a year ago. And while I'm happy to have Mayor Fenty on board, I'm more nervous than ever about how the city will respond to the stadium.