The D.C. Council on Dec. 17 voted unanimously to approve a new soccer stadium for D.C. United at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington, four blocks from Nationals Park at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. The District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014 paves the way for construction to begin on the $300 million, 20,000-seat stadium that is targeted for a 2017 opening.
“We’re thrilled that this came to fruition,” D.C. United managing general partner Jason Levien said. “It was a long time in the making. There were just a lot of people pulling in the same direction.”
United has leased RFK Stadium since Major League Soccer’s founding in 1996 and for years the team and many fans have complained that the venue that opened in 1961 is outdated, especially with 16 other MLS clubs opening soccer-specific stadiums since 1999. The black-and-red has won four MLS Cups, including hoisting the trophy on the RFK pitch in 1997 in front of 57,421 cheering fans.
Under the stadium agreement, the city will spend up to $150 million for land acquisition and basic infrastructure. The District will issue $106 million in new debt and shift $32.6 million of capital funding to finance the project.
“I’m still trying to understand how use of our borrowing authority for the stadium project impacts other infrastructure needs of the city such as school construction, library construction and so forth,” said Councilmember-elect Elissa Silverman.
Levien said the deal is an economic investment opportunity for the District and mentioned an independent cost-benefits analysis that found that the stadium would generate net fiscal benefits over the next three decades of $109.4 million.
“Ultimately this economic development is going to create more resources for the District than other projects. I think it’s a real win-win,” said Levien.
On Dec. 18, United strengthened its ties to the surrounding community with the announcement of the Southwest Soccer Stadium Community Benefits Agreement that will connect the new stadium with local residents, including making the facility and meeting rooms available for community use, participating in a summer jobs program and other employment, small business and not-for-profit opportunities.
“I think this is an exciting moment for soccer in the District,” said Levien. “We had the number one ratings here in D.C. for the World Cup throughout the United States. I think this sport is so global and its growth in the U.S. is happening so rapidly and with such energy and enthusiasm that it is terrific for D.C. to be at the forefront and that’s what this [stadium] is going to allow us to do.”