October 19, 2019

D.C. United: Club achieves greatest victory as City Council approves stadium bill

UNANIMOUS PASSAGE CLEARS WAY FOR SOCCER STADIUM AT BUZZARD POINT

For years, ghostly buzzards circled around D.C. United, waiting for the day when all hope of a new stadium was finally lost, and the team would either move away or disappear from Major League Soccer entirely. But on Wednesday, the D.C. City Council sent United’s future in the entirely opposite direction, passing a soccer stadium bill for the Buzzard Point site that should keep the club in Washington for decades to come.

The bill, in a three-vote process to include funding amendments, passed after a short bit of discussion among Council members, who raised some individual concerns but in the end didn’t waver from their support.

The club and the city are both paying for the stadium, for which ground breaking cannot occur until all the required property is either purchased by the city in negotiations with outside parties, or the city uses eminent domain to take possession of the land.

In discussion prior to the bill’s passage, Councilmen Jack Evans reflected on stadium starts and stops that have been an albatross United’s neck over much of the franchise’s existence.

“It’s a long process, dating back over 10 years, with different sites and different owners at different times,” Evans said. “If you persist long enough and get the right players together, you make it happen. It’s a great day for the District of Columbia.”

It’s an even greater day for United, who previously hoped to build its new home in the city at Poplar Point, but were turned away. The club then pursued a new home in Prince George’s County, Md., but were blocked by local opposition. Many may have wondered if this deal would suffer the same fate, and if so, what that would have meant for the future of the team.

Now, however, such questions can just about be forgotten forever, though no one will be fully confident until shovels hit dirt and for some, not until they are standing at their seats watching United play its first match in the new stadium.

D.C. United Managing General Partner Jason Levien, in a statement released by the team this morning after the vote said, “This is a moment that is the final product of a collective effort of all of those, on and off the field, who have ever worn the Black-and-Red and proudly represented D.C. United over the last two decades. The championships won by the players, the atmosphere created by our supporters, and the tireless efforts of our staff in the community have together forged this club’s storied history. The realization of a new stadium is a tribute to their unwavering dedication.”

Of the nine original MLS teams still active (the Tampa Bay Mutiny are long since departed), only United and the New England Revolution haven’t opened their own stadiums or hadn’t started construction (San Jose’s new ground is being developed). The Revs, however, are operated by Robert Kraft, who also owns the NFL’s New England Patriots and the two teams share the same stadium, so their need hasn’t been as pronounced as that for United.

The stadium news continues positive momentum for the club, which finished 2014 atop the Eastern Conference with a record 59 points, despite being knocked out by New York in the conference semifinals. In 2013, United were one of the worst teams in MLS history, winning just three games and collecting a mere 16 points. United were much more enjoyable to watch in 2014 and attendance increased nearly 25 percent season to season, according to statistics at the MLS Attendance Blog.

Memories of both 2013 and prior stadium debacles, faded as they might have been from United’s play on the field in 2014, can now be washed away perhaps forever. United likely won’t get into its new home until at least 2017, but the fact that it’s now a concrete part of the club’s future rather than what seemed at times to be a mirage is a boost for the club’s supporters and everyone with the team.

“It is a victory for the team and its fans, the city, the region and the sport of soccer in this country,” Levien wrote.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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