SIMMONS: The soccer stadium deal (wink, wink)

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s a whole lot of shaking and baking going on in several D.C. neighborhoods, and it’s not quite clear who’s doing the shaking and who’s doing the baking.

One thing is certain: Lame-duck Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s imprimatur on a new major league soccer stadium, announced Friday, should be thoroughly questioned.

There are too many moving parts before the deal can be signed, sealed and delivered, so stakeholders should pay close attention.

The tentative agreement calls for part of the Southwest waterfront to undergo a major face-lift, as well as the U Street corridor, the Good Hope Road/Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue crossroads in Southeast, and First and K streets NW near Gonzaga College High School (alma mater of numerous politicians and pundits, including Martin O’Malley, Pat Buchanan, Bill Bennett and Ken Cuccinelli to name a few.)

The proposal calls for a 20,000- to 25,000-seat stadium to be constructed not far from Nationals Park as part of landswapping and sweet no-taxation deals that are very complex.

For example, one of those deals entails D.C. buying Pepco land for the new stadium in exchange for city-owned land at First and K streets.

Another deal should be a major concern because it involves taking prime city-owned real estate along a major Anacostia corridor off the tax rolls to house government agencies. (Call it Reeves Center II). It doesn’t make sense because Good Hope/MLK is a gateway to the city. (Duh.)

Now to the potential bonehead plans:

The Lease: The stadium lease would be for 30 years on a three-acre parcel in Buzzard Point in Southwest where the Potomac and Anacostia rivers converge. The lease would include two, five-year extensions.

So far, so good, if there is a good side.

The Money I: The city, i.e. taxpayers, would pay an estimated $150 million to acquire land and ready the site for construction of the new sports facility, while the team would pay for stadium costs. But site construction costs and overruns are always winked at in the push to keep public-private deal making beyond the view of unsuspecting eyes.

Recall the 2004 baseball stadium proposal, which was only supposed to cost a couple hundred million dollars. Well, it cost more than $700 million, and D.C. doled out an estimated $670.3 million.

The Money II: The city won’t begin collecting game-day sales taxes from the team and its concessionaires until Year 6 of the lease. Thereafter, the team will pay $2 per ticket sold in Years 11-20, and similar costs in the outyears.

D.C. United won’t begin paying real estate taxes until the fifth outyear — and then it still will get huge breaks. As the proposal now stands, D.C. United would begin paying 25 percent of full rate after five years, 50 percent in 10 years, 75 percent after 15 years, and full rate after 20 years — by which time the team will want a new stadium.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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