14 February 2008

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.

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At 14 February, 2008 09:56, Anonymous Mickey said...

Fenty had to incorporate a SSS project somewhere in Ward 8 in order to get any Poplar Point proposal(with or without a soccer stadium) approved by the necessary committees on the council. In particular, the committee that approves the disposition of any city-owned property (such as Poplar Point) must be approved by a small committee chaired by none other than Marion Barry. As such, political pragmatism is likely a root source for this Franken-Proposal. Fenty desparately wants the Poplar Point proposal to move forward quickly and knows that a soccer stadium has to be incorporated somewhere and somehow in order to get certain council members on board.

At 14 February, 2008 11:28, Blogger Oscar M. said...

Will dc united go for a stadium if there is a chance the District government will own the stadium? Reading the article, it seems at best, its still 3-4 years away. How quick could we get a Stadium in Maryland?

Reading what mickey wrote, could this new found support be something he can support now to get Poplar Point done calculating that this Soccer stadium proposal has little chance to become reality?

At 14 February, 2008 11:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This "ownership" thing is a giant canard. The government "owns" the stadiums in Toronto, Bridgeview, and the potential one in Chester. It's a legal fiction to cut costs.

At 14 February, 2008 16:44, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assuming that Fenty is rational, one hypothesis that pulls everything together is that McFarlane's plan made TOO it clear that building a staduim was a huge financial win.

My guess is that Fenty is proposing to own the stadium to get his hands on the revenue streams.

DC United may be offered a sweet rent deal, but this twist may take away enough of the potential profits that is becomes less attractive to the team. (Almost) free rent is cool, but not when compared to giving up a portion of the luxury box revenue, parking, concessions, area redevelopment, etc.

As much as I want to believe this is great news, I'm still on pins and needles until I hear the team is enthusiastic about this new development.

At 15 February, 2008 08:19, Anonymous Jeremy said...

If United doesn't get control of the revenue streams, then there will be one large vacant stadium in Poplar Point!

Frankly, this whole turn of events stinks like a rat. It's time to find out which of Fenty's relatives works for the winning developer or contractors...

At 15 February, 2008 14:03, Anonymous charlton heston said...

Agreed. It does stink like a rat. We want no part of D.C. owning any part of our stadium. Time to torch Fenty's trojan horse offer.

At 15 February, 2008 18:35, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody else notice that DCU took off the PP link on its stadium page...?


At 16 February, 2008 09:25, Anonymous Kelly said...

As has been pointed out, the ownership of the facility is not going to be a sticking point, most of the SSS recently built are owned by the municipalities. The teams though are in control of the stadium. Control is the key issue - ancillary income from parking, concessions, advertising, non-DC events, naming rights are going to be the deal breakers. I would suspect, however, that Macfarlane is not going to sink any of ownership's money into the project, especially the sums already bandied about, without a more than satisfactory agreement on who gets what from the revenue stream.



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