D.C. United has moved a major step closer to ending its long-running search for a soccer-specific stadium after the Major League Soccer (MLS) club and Mayor of the District of Columbia, Vincent Gray, signed a public-private partnership term sheet to build a 20,000 to 25,000-seat facility in southwest Washington.
United has been engaged in a decade-long bid to leave its current RFK Stadium home, where it has played since its formation in 1996. Team officials say the team loses money every year from playing in the 46,000-seat facility, but plans revealed on Thursday detail that it could move into a stadium more suited to its requirements in time for the 2016 MLS season. The deal will ensure United stays in the District of Columbia having previously been linked with a move to suburban Maryland, Virginia and Baltimore. “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. “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.”
Under the provisions of the term sheet, the District anticipates that it will swap District-owned property to assemble the stadium site parcels. The term sheet calls for the District to act as a horizontal developer and assume the cost of land acquisition and infrastructure, while D.C. United would construct the stadium. Both sides of the project are anticipated to cost US$150 million apiece. “This is an exciting plan that moves the District forward in two areas about which I’m passionate – economic development, particularly in the East End of the District, and sports,” said Gray. “The new soccer stadium is the final piece in the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative puzzle that, when complete will create the most vibrant and sustainable sports-and-retail district in America.”
There is not yet a finalised design for the proposed stadium. However, United officials unveiled multiple potential design concepts and are evaluating them as well as best practices with respect to soccer stadium design and operations in the United States and abroad. Initial renderings place the new stadium close to Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball franchise the Washington Nationals. “The realisation 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,” added 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.”