Longtime MLS watchers and DC sports fans know that every year a hot rumor about DC United’s stadium situation begins to make the rounds, only for that rumor to fall apart and the team move ever closer to leaving the nation’s capital. Last year, it was Upper Marlboro and the University of Maryland that seemingly were landing places for DC’s stadium, with Baltimore lurking in the background to pick up the pieces. And who can forget the ill-fated stadium in Poplar Point that never came about. At this point, it is reasonable to be skeptical about any reported progress on a new soccer stadium in Washington, DC.
However, winds of change are blowing across the Anacostia and when even longtime soccer writer/guru Steven Goff is expressing optimism, MLS may have reached a turning point with the DCU stadium situation. The hope revolves around two major developments with the team over the past two weeks. The first is the rumor that there may be a new investment in the team by Erick Thohir, a part-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and a soccer fan. It was Thohir, president of Visi Media Asia, who organized the LA Galaxy’s offseason tour of Indonesia. Additionally, Will Chang, the principle owner of DC United, is working with Inner Circle Sports to help find additional investors for the team. RSL fans may recognize the New-York based bank as the company that helped organized their most recent sale, but possibly more importantly they helped the most recent sale of the 76ers, showing a familiarity to Thohir and his company. Thohir and another partner attended DC’s last home game against New England and met the team, another telling sign.
[It is important to note that Will Chang has said he is not selling his entire ownership stake. In addition, in MLS owners do not directly buy teams but instead invest in the league as a meandering way to control different teams.]
Even if that sale went through, it would still leave the team lacking a place for a stadium. The most recent rumor had been that DCU was exploring a site at Buzzard Point for a 22,000 seat soccer-only stadium. The site has the advantage of being near the Washington Nationals’ stadium, meaning it would benefit from the social sites being built around the baseball stadium. How much everything would cost, however, is becoming more clear with a report leaked this week on the economic benefits of a new DCU stadium. The Greater Washington Sports Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to sports in the nation’s capital with a number of prominent sports and business figures on the board, estimated that the stadium would cost $157 million to build (by comparison, BBVA Compass Stadium cost $95 million) but would support almost a thousand full time jobs as well as generate $38 million in revenue annually. The significance of this study (conducted by Convention Sports & Leisure International) is that some of the leading personalities in the city are moving forward with creating a pitch and a plan for a new stadium. While not shovel to dirt, it’s the biggest step to date in the DC stadium quest.
(H/t to Steven Goff and Jonathan O’Connell of The Washington Post, and the gents at Black and Red United for some of these tidbits in this story)