McCarthy's Musings: If You Can Build It

Recent stadium news out of San Jose and D.C. shows just how difficult building a stadium is in these economic times, Goal.com's Kyle McCarthy writes.

By Kyle McCarthy

Gentle reminders about the difficulty of building soccer-specific stadiums arrived on Tuesday.

Unfortunately for D.C. United and its quest for a new stadium in Prince George's County, the news surrounding its proposed stadium is not at all gentle after a vote essentially dashed United's hopes of moving to the Maryland suburbs.

The Prince George's County Council voted unanimously to reject authorizing a state study of a potential stadium project in the county, according to The Washington Post. Vitriolic comments from county delegates seem to point to the death of the project, with worries about additional traffic and proposed county financial contributions creating significant concerns for the council.

“We're, of course, disappointed at the outcome of this vote,” United vice president of communications Doug Hicks said in a statement to the Post. “It's certainly unusual for an elected body to decide it would rather not learn the facts of a proposed opportunity. We will continue conversations with other jurisdictions regarding a future home for D.C. United.”

Better news arrived in San Jose as the City Council voted to give Earthquakes investor/operator Lew Wolff a $40 million discount on a proposed land deal near Mineta San Jose International airport after the price of the land fell sharply. The discounted price will cut into San Jose's profit on the deal, but the deal may have been in jeopardy if the city hadn't lowered the price of the land.

“Prices have come back to earth, and we have to face that reality,” Councilman Sam Liccardo told the Mercury News. “Doing something beats doing nothing in this economy.”

Something would include a 15,000 seat stadium and 3,000 “seat” grass berm. For the moment, something wouldn't involve the development of additional acreage for other commercial purposes. This concession is more about bringing potential construction dollars into the city at a time where those dollars are hard to find rather than spurring extra commercial development straight away, according to one city official

“We're still at a price above what we originally paid,” San Jose economic development czar Paul Krutko told the Mercury News. We're very pleased that they think there's an opportunity to do $60 million in construction. That would be a real shot in the arm.”

The take-home lesson here is that municipal bodies across the country are being more cautious with the types of dollars they are willing to invest in stadium development projects.

The dour economic conditions mean MLS clubs have to present a package that makes both fiscal and political sense in times where the public is reticent to spend tax dollars on an apparent luxury.

In San Jose, the Earthquakes have managed to do that. In Portland, the Timbers are still working to fill a $15 million financing gap and both the public and private entities involved are reticent to ante up first. In D.C., United just hasn't found the right partnership – politically and financially – to make a deal work.

How United and other MLS teams seeking stadium deals adjust to the changing political and financial landscape may determine whether those fields of dreams eventually get built.

Around the League

- Ade Akinbiyi is expected to join Houston this week upon the receipt of his P1 work visa and could feature in this weekend's tilt against the Red Bulls.

- Cameroonian striker Stephane Assengue trained with New England for the first time on Tuesday. He is expected to be available for the Revolution's next game in D.C. on April 17.

- Those Christian Vieri to Los Angeles rumors caught fire for a half a day before the Galaxy shot them down. Did anyone stop to wonder how Vieri would fit under the salary budget on anything other than a short-term deal that expires before David Beckham returns? Didn't think so.

- Gregg Berhalter made his Galaxy debut in last night's U.S. Open Cup qualifier. Colorado advanced on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes in a match that was sure to please the neutrals.

- Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe went 90 minutes for the Fire on Tuesday night in a 3-0 win over Illinois-Chicago. A good use of their talents, eh?

- Give full credit to Puerto Rico for putting up one heck of a fight down in Mexico City before eventually succumbing to Cruz Azul on penalties in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. No shame in that performance from the Islanders.

Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at kyle.mccarthy@goal.com.