- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

D.C. United projects that a new stadium in Prince George’s County would rank among the most active in Major League Soccer, with the team’s games making up only about a quarter of the total number of events at the facility.

Citing a study commissioned by the Maryland Stadium Authority last year, the team claims the stadium would draw between 53 and 64 annual events, including women’s and college soccer games, concerts and other community events. The projections suggest activity at the new facility would rival that of soccer-specific facilities in Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles, which are the busiest in MLS.

Attendance projections for the stadium suggest it will draw as many as 841,000 spectators, a higher total than five of the six soccer-specific stadiums in MLS. Only Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., which houses two MLS teams, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA, drew more in 2008.

D.C. United projects to have between 30 and 40 more events each year than less active stadiums, including Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. But team officials said they’re comfortable with the high projections because of the potential to hold events for the new Washington Freedom of Women Professional Soccer and local college teams.

The study by Crossroads Consulting projects the stadium would hold 15 D.C. United league games and between nine and 11 other soccer games involving domestic or international competitions, such as the CONCACAF Cup. The study also suggests the stadium could house four to six collegiate soccer games and as many as eight other sporting events, such as lacrosse or football games. In addition, there would be two or three concerts, between six and eight community events and 10 home games for the Freedom.

United officials said their projections for activity could be conservative considering that the team has made several appearances in the MLS playoffs and nonleague tournaments. Last season, United played 25 matches at RFK Stadium. More than 20,000 fans also attended a World Cup qualifier between the United States and Cuba in October, and RFK has hosted other major soccer events in recent years.

“We’re very comfortable with those projections,” United spokesman Doug Hicks said.

At most MLS stadiums, the team serves as a tenant in the facility. To maximize revenue from the stadiums, operators push to bring in other events.

Pizza Hut Park, home of FC Dallas, held 65 events in 2008, including a local high school soccer tournament and concerts by Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett. Home Depot Center held a high school band festival and a boxing match featuring Oscar De La Hoya.

Several MLS stadiums, including Home Depot Center, BMO Field in Toronto and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, are positioned as part of a larger sports or recreation complex. Home Depot Center, for instance, draws nearly 100 events to an adjacent tennis stadium, velodrome and track and field facility. The area near Dick’s Sporting Goods Park attracts thousands to 24 lighted soccer fields.

Home Depot Center and Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., could host more events as a result of new WPS teams that will play in their facilities this year. Dallas will introduce a WPS franchise to Pizza Hut Park in 2010.

D.C. United has used the projections of events and attendance as its seeks approval from the Maryland Legislature for the rights to begin planning for the stadium. The Crossroads study says the stadium could create more than $6 million in annual tax revenues and between $42.5 million and $51.9 million in direct spending each year.

Early plans call for the stadium to be built near the Morgan Boulevard Metro station in Landover. The Maryland House Appropriations Committee approved a measure Monday that would allow for a study of the stadium possibilities, but it must revisit the issue because of errors in the language of the bill that made it unconstitutional. The Prince George’s County Council was expected to discuss the bill Tuesday but adjourned without doing so.

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