By the start of the 2016 MLS season, D.C. United will be playing in state-of-the-art stadium just blocks away from the Southeast Waterfront. Several designs are still being considered and the facility is expected to seat between 20,000 and 25,000 fans. At least that's what they were saying during the Thursday press conference that formally announced an agreement between the team and the District of Colombia.
"We are proud to say that D.C. United has achieved a major milestone towards establishing a permanent, state-of-the-art home in Washington, D.C.," said United managing partner Jason Levien, who was part of a group that took control of the team about a year ago and immediately made building a new stadium their No. 1 priority. "This is a significant step forward, and we are going to continue to work diligently and collaboratively with the Mayor's office and the D.C. Council to expedite this process and make this stadium a reality."
Much of what was said during the press conference was basically a rehash of the news that came out yesterday, albeit in a more formal setting. Basically, United will cover the costs of the actual stadium while the District of Columbia will acquire the land and makes sure it's suitable to build a stadium. The public contribution will come mostly in the form of landswaps and be valued at about $150 million, with the biggest piece being the relocation of the Frank D. Reeves Center for Municipal Affairs.
City officials expressed hope that the land would be fully acquired within the next six months.
Although this was presented as virtually a done deal, there are reasons to be skeptical. The DC taxpayers, and surely some council members, are still a bit squeamish of publicly subsidized sports stadium after they ended up footing the entire bill on the $600 million Washington Nationals baseball stadium.
Notably absent from the press conference was MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who was last seen at the United States-Honduras Gold Cup match on Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium.
Still, this should be seen as a positive development in terms of United and MLS. Assuming this gets done, it would leave the New England Revolution as the only team that plays in a stadium not specifically designed for soccer. Over the last few years, United has openly flirted with moving out of DC as RFK Stadium continued to crumble while also being a financial burden on the team.
"The realization of a soccer stadium in the District is a reflection of D.C. United's role within the fabric of the city and the sport," said Levien. "Our club and our fans forged traditions to anchor Major League Soccer. This accomplishment will add to our rich history, leading to a venue in our Nation's Capital unlike any other in our League."