- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

D.C. United made its strongest move yet toward a potential move out of the District, revealing Thursday that Prince George’s County and Maryland officials will present a new bill that would authorize construction of a new, soccer-specific stadium in the Maryland suburbs.

United said Thursday the stadium would seat 24,000 people and cost between $180 million and $195 million. It would be paid for by the team, along with any tax revenue generated by the stadium and any ancillary development. The county said the stadium would not use funds from existing tax dollars or lotteries.

State, county and team officials are scheduled Monday to announce details of the stadium plan, which would have the support of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

United has not settled on a specific place but has acknowledged exploring several potential Metro-accessible sites in Prince George’s County, including near the Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center stations.

D.C. United and Major League Soccer have pushed for a new stadium for several years, arguing that RFK Stadium has not allowed for the type of revenue needed to make the team profitable. A new stadium likely would allow the team to control all revenue streams, including those from other sporting events and concerts, and make money from the sale of luxury boxes and club seats. A newer facility also presumably would allow the team to charge more for tickets and sponsorships. United recently signed a new two-year lease for RFK Stadium.

Last year, the stadium authority commissioned a feasibility study for a stadium in the Maryland suburbs, concluding that a stadium could have a positive economic impact of between $60 million and $85 million.

The possible stadium deal in Maryland is likely to put pressure on the District, which had been in negotiations with the team about a possible move to Poplar Point in Southeast. The plan had the support of some business leaders and Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, but those talks ceased last year after the city and team could not agree on a financing plan.

A previous conception called for United to pay for the full amount of the stadium, with the city contributing toward infrastructure costs. That plan was scuttled by Mayor Adrian Fenty, who opened up the development of Poplar Point to competitive bidders. Team owner and real estate developer Victor MacFarlane declined to present a bid, and the development rights were awarded to Clark Realty, which submitted a proposal that did not include a stadium. At the time, Clark officials did not dismiss the idea of working with United on a possible facility, but last month the company dropped plans to redevelop Poplar Point, citing the recent downturn in the economy.

Fenty declined to comment because he had not received or reviewed a copy of United’s stadium proposal for Prince George’s County as of Thursday evening.

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