- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Anacostia Waterfront Corp. will hold a public hearing Saturday at Ballou Senior High in Southeast to discuss the proposed Poplar Point stadium for Washington’s D.C. United soccer club. Adrian Washington, the president and CEO, and colleagues should expect to hear an earful. The proposals are not so different from those in Major League Baseball’s stadium boondoggle. The likely largesse is different — a land transfer in lieu of the outright subsidy the city gave organized baseball — and the scope will probably be smaller. But here we go again. This is a sweetheart deal for wealthy sports magnates worth tens and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars.

D.C. United’s new ownership will pay construction costs for the $150 million, 27,000-seat stadium in exchange for development rights to a portion of the 110-acre Poplar Point land parcel the U.S. Park Service transferred to the District last month. That land was not free: The city exchanged a series of properties elsewhere in the city, a deal which the feds considered sufficiently fair and both Congress and the White House approved. Its fair-market value is in the range of tens of millions of dollars.

But under the reported terms of the deal it would be effectively granted free to an ownership group whose chief, real-estate millionaire Victor B. MacFarlane, lives in a $30 million San Francisco penthouse. Mr. MacFarlane and partners Brian Davis and William H.C. Chang purchased D.C. United this month for $33 million from the Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Mayor Adrian Fenty supports a new stadium in theory but has not gotten to the financing specifics, which gives him room to be a voice later for fiscal sanity. He should take the opportunity. A land swap is no less egregious than the unfortunate city funding of the Anacostia stadium for the Washington Nationals.

This isn’t the last time Washington will grapple with these issues, so it’s even more important to get things right this time. Proposals for the Washington Redskins to return to the RFK Stadium area are underway — no doubt prompting wide-ranging financing decisions for the city. It would be nice to have the Washington Redskins back in Washington, where they belong. All the more reason to set a better precedent — a taxpayer-friendly one — with soccer.

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