Dec 28, 2010

Baltimore Site for Possible DC United Stadium?

The Baltimore Sun reported on the stadium feasibility study conducted for Charm City to place a 25,000 seat stadium in the complex south of M&T Bank Stadium, which also happens to be just south of Camden Yards. According to the Sun:
The proposed Westport stadium and an adjacent hotel would be part of a $1.5 billion mixed-use project being developed on the waterfront. The study determined the stadium could host 49 to 54 events annually, including 17 D.C. United games. Annual attendance is estimated to be 584,750 to 695,100 with total spending between $65.7 and $78 million each year. Total jobs are estimated at 780 to 940 with annual state tax revenues of approximately $3 million to $3.5 million. This project is expected to generate between $2.3 million to $2.8 million in annual city taxes.
If I am accurate in my understanding, the Westport development that appears to be the contingency for the stadium would be on both public transit lines and with immediate access to I-95 and a short distance from other developments in Baltimore.

The question will be what will the DC government and counties around DC do with this news. DC United is bordering on being the only team in MLS without their own stadium. New England and DC United are the only MLS Original Clubs still playing without a soccer specific stadium either built or in the works and DC United and New England are the oldest teams, being original clubs, who are still playing in non-dedicated facilities.

The fact is that DC United has been treated as the red-headed step child of the DC sports scene. Despite the success of the club, even relatively recent success such as the Supporter's Shield in 2006 and 2007 (although their playoff performance those years left much to be desired), the DC City Council and to a lesser extent Congress, have been reluctant to put any effort into negotiating a deal for a stadium site. Understandably, DC United is looking elsewhere.

With two strong supporters groups, the Screaming Eagles and the Barra Brava, and even attendances still getting close to 18,000 a game despite the poor performance of the last two years, getting season tickets won't be a problem. But I believe DC United is right to be looking for an urban location, close to the heart of a city, mass transit and a relatively central location. The Baltimore site gives that location, but nothing that DC government has even hinted at getting anything started, although sites like Poplar Point have been discussed.

Perhaps it is time to get the Football Supporter In Chief, President Barack Obama on board while he still occupies the White House. Much is made of the President's daughters playing the game and even regular press shots of the President on the touchlines with Secret Service in the background. Instead of just championing the World Cup for 2022 (President Obama is now 0 for 2 in pitching big events in the U.S., having failed to also get the Chicago Olympics), the President should apply a little pressure on the DC government to find a site for DC United.

In the end, it may be unlikely that DC United move to Baltimore any time soon. But with Baltimore making a play for the Black and Red, it will not be long before DC United are the only MLS Original club playing in a non-specific stadium. That is not only a major slight by the DC government and sport community, but also a tragedy for DC United Supporters and the game in the Nation's Capital.

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