Relax, D.C. United is not moving to Baltimore.
I’m not saying it’s impossible. Anything is possible until fans find themselves sitting in seats in a new stadium in the District or its suburbs.
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s letter to the Maryland Stadium Authority asking for a study on the economic impact of a potential stadium in the city is a nice wrinkle in United’s stadium saga, but that’s all it is. The team does not want to move to Baltimore unless there are no other options out there, and right now there are still options.
Talks with the District about a new stadium aren’t dead. Neither are talks with Montgomery and Loudoun County. Baltimore isn’t even being used as leverage at this point.
Quietly, the team remains hopeful of hammering out some sort of deal in the District or suburbs by year’s end, according to people close to the process. But the team’s experience with Prince George’s County earlier this year has left officials wary of announcing anything too early. Officials felt burned by Prince George’s County when they announced plans for a stadium only to have them scuttled when county council members realized they did not have support from their constituents.
In the case of the District, getting a new stadium for the team will be a top priority of the new Washington Convention and Sports Authority, according to one top city official.
“I am committed to addressing their stadium needs and keeping the franchise in Washington,” said Bill Hall, an attorney with Winston and Strawn and chairman of the commission’s sports and entertainment committee. “We will explore all options available to do so, and given their successful history and our interest in keeping them here I expect we’ll be able to work something out.”
Hall wasn’t offering up too much in the way of specifics, be he isn’t the type to blow smoke about these things. He was one of the lead negotiators in bringing the Nationals to D.C. and getting a baseball stadium built. If he says people are talking, people are talking.
Where the stadium would go and how it would be paid for are questions left to be answered. And those are really the two biggest questions. But the chances of the team moving to Baltimore are still very small.
The Maryland Stadium Authority, for its part, has no opinion on where the team should go. Executive director Michael Frenz said the authority is still looking to gather information before a study can be performed.
“We weren’t able to address some of the salient points yet, [like] the scope of the study, how it’s going to be paid for,” he said. “We’ll be talking to the mayor’s office and then moving forward. Once those questions are answered it goes to the legislative budget committees for their review and then our board would review it and conduct the study. We have no opinion, and doing the study only indicates whether the project is feasible.”