Housing Complex

The D.C. United Stadium May Be More Popular Than Post Poll Shows

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The Washington Post headline sounds damning: "Six in 10 oppose Gray's plan for funding D.C. United stadium." A recent poll, the story reports, found that "public opinion is running strongly against one of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s highest-profile initiatives, financing a new stadium for the D.C. United pro soccer team."

But Gray's top spokesman argues that story's headline and main argument are misleading, because the poll question didn't really reflect what the Gray administration has proposed.

"The poll question is, do you support public financing for a stadium in general?" says spokesman Pedro Ribeiro. "Not even the mayor supports that, because what the mayor has proposed is not public financing for a stadium."

Here's what he's talking about: Under the tentative deal between the city and D.C. United, the details of which are still being ironed out, the soccer team will foot the full bill for the new stadium at Buzzard Point. The city will assemble the land required to build the stadium, and will complete infrastructure work like realigning the surrounding streets.

But if and when the team moves away, the land will remain the city's, and whatever appreciation the soccer stadium and the accompanying development will generate would benefit the city.

The question on the Post poll was worded: "Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose using city funds to help finance a new soccer stadium for the District's Major League Soccer team, D.C. United?" Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they opposed it; 35 percent approved.

The question isn't strictly speaking wrong, since city funds will go toward realizing the stadium project. And there are plenty of reasons not mentioned why people might question the deal, including the complicated land swaps that are likely to see the city giving up the valuable Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center site on U Street NW. But as the question is phrased, respondents would be forgiven for thinking that the stadium would be built with city money—as, for example, Nationals Park was last decade.

Speaking of Nationals Park: The Post poll found that more than 70 percent of Washingtonians now approve of the city's $650 million investment to build that stadium. But compare that to a Post poll from 2004, in which only four in 10 respondents backed the city's big expenditure on the stadium. That looks awfully similar to public opinion on the D.C. United deal now.

Granted, soccer is not America's pastime, and the D.C. United stadium may not spark as much fan interest or neighborhood development as Nationals Park did. But there's plenty of reason to think that the Post poll doesn't really mean that the D.C. United deal, as proposed by the Gray administration, will be unpopular in the long run—or even that it's as unpopular now as the Post story would have you believe.

Rendering from the Office of the City Administrator

  • Capitol Hill

    In addition to the Baseball results, the Post published question-by-question results show the response to the soccer question is virtually unchanged when the same question was asked in 2008, making it even more likely we are seeing a gut reaction to public financing/stadiums and not any specific response to Mayor Gray, soccer, or the current financing plan. What is interesting is the very different Post reporting of the results, that says a lot more than the survey.

  • Capitoll Hill Too

    This is typical reporting of Debonis. He will report any news to make Gray look bad. I'm not defending or supporting Gray, but the Post editorial and its local reporters are so bias.

  • Izzy

    So... the city will use its powers of Eminent Domain to force people out of their homes and businesses so that the city can then give that land to DC United.

    America the beautiful.

    Why not make DC United negotiate with those businesses and families on its own? Why is the DC Government "picking winners"?

  • googlebot

    @izzy, first off your are purely speculating that DC will use ED. Wait and see before you jump down people's throats. Second, the properties in question are made up of a vacant lot and a scrap yard. I don't think anyone is living there.

  • Bob

    I think the Post only polled US citizens. This vastly understated the support for the DC United stadium, because most of its van base are not US citizens.

  • Rocko

    @Bob
    1982 called, they said you should come home now.

  • Mario

    I like soccer and a new stadium would be great. But, c'mon, giving up the Reeve's Center so it can be turned into another shitty upscale condo development is fucking disgusting--can we have something on U St besides over-priced housing and restaurants?
    Why can't the team owner buy the necessary land himself? Last time I checked he was pretty damn loaded. And whatever city land he needs could be leased to him at a favorable rate. This shit doesn't make sense.
    And I still think the city got screwed on Nats Park, despite what corrupt politicians and Nat Ghandi say since I don't trust any of them.

  • Tom M

    This reporting reflects an acceptance of a subterfuge -- that buying land, giving valuable land away, letting the owners keep sales/property taxes that any other landowner would have to pay to the District, and paying for infrastructure is somehow NOT public subsidy for a soccer stadium. It is any way you cut it. So i cannot agree that the question is misleading. The mayor's spokesperson and the supporters of the stadium give-away are misleading and misreading. The co-owner of the team is a billionaire. If he wants to make money from a soccer team and stadium, let him pay for it through ticket and related sales or from his own pocket.

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  • E. Masquinongy

    +1 Tom M.

    C'mon guys, city $ WILL be used no matter how it is phrased, so cut the bullshit. It is this sort of spin, larded heavily in this article, that drives me nuts.

    I could support the stadium -- it would help development in this overlook neighborhood, and it would do wonders for kid soccer, and thereby help kids stay out of trouble -- if I did not think some people were trying to fool me.

  • Alan

    Basically what Tom M. said. Not that it's necessarily shady, but if it's not why make it so complicated? I'm not even against the deal when it comes down to it, I just can't support it until everyone is honest about what is going on.

  • Corky

    Come on! The Public is not that stupid. Everyone understands that giving away a valuable government owned property at 14th & U to developers so that the District will then have to lease space to house these same government functions is public financing of the stadium any way you slice it. This is going to cost the District money. Big money. Part of the cost will be the millions EVERY year that the District will now pay to a landlord to house the agencies that were displaced by the give away of the Reeeves Center. The taxpayers are paying for this and the developers are going to make out like bandits. And DC United will still suck.

  • LoganRes

    Rocko - I think what Bob meant is that DC has a very large immigrant population of people from countries in the Caribbean and Central America who are very proud supporters of soccer. I doubt that many of them were a part of the Post's polling.

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  • DCLee

    Dear Tom M, E. Mas, Alan, Mario and Corky. You all want the truth. Yes. Things cost money. The city has come up with a smart way to help raise that money and yet there are always problems. It is perfect. No. Is it bad. No. It is a good deal for the city and will help the team so what is the big deal. Is the money coming from your pockets and if so how much. A nickel! Is that to much money to spare to help build up a neighborhood that is slowly coming around but needs more help. Quit being so selfish! And stop the comments that the city should build more school, libraries, parks, etc... DC already does a good job of that and this project will not have any effect on those next public services the city builds. Do you all enjoy Nats Park? Did that stadium raise your taxes so high that you all had to relocate? My guess is you all have had an enjoyable day or night at that great ballpark and your taxes did not take a hit because of it and that was a really bad deal. THIS IS NOT A BAD DEAL. And Mario, the Reeves Center needs a reboot so this is great it could happen and whatever comes to the U street corridor will only enhance it. But keep complaining if you must. It is what people online do best. Signed someone looking forward to living down by Nats Park and the new United stadium.

  • Chris

    Tom M -- except you're not describing the actual offer, since under the terms of the deal, the District isn't giving land away to anyone.

    Don't get me wrong. If you want to argue that what the city will get for the Reeves Center under the deal (ownership of the land on which the stadium is built + a share of profits if the team's soccer operations turn a large enough profit + stimulation of Buzzard's Point development) is less than whe city could get for the Reeves Center, that's a reasonable position to take. But your representation as it stands is flawed.

  • Sgc

    There's certainly going to be a subsidy, in that they're not likely to be charging full market value for the land rental. . . but yes, I think the poll question is misleading, because it conjures visions of the baseball deal, when this one is going to involve a good deal more private than public money in the end.

  • Charlie

    The baseball stadium deal is the reason I will never vote for Jack Evans. It's the reason in the next election every candidate that supported the deal was voted out of office. (Sadly Evans wasn't up for re-election in that cycle.)

  • http://facebook.com/UStreetNW U Street Buzz

    @Sgc: Why do you say the city won't get "full market value" for the land? Not true.

    Under the current terms of the deal the city is to select an independent firm to do a valuation of the property at Buzzard Point AND the Reeves Center at 14th and U. The developer (Akridge) will hire their own firm to do the same, and those two firms will hire a third that is acceptable to all parties. The average of the three valuations for the two properties will be used. The 14th & U property is worth MUCH more than the Buzzard Point property so Akridge will have to kick in a lot of cash to even up the deal (tens of millions).

    Seems fair to me.

    DC United pays for the stadium. The city acquires the land (and gets cash) and leases the land to the team and then pays for the same kind of basic infrastructure that most major developments would get (water, power, sewers, roads). A new Reeves Center is built in Ward 8 and brings jobs and daytime foot traffic (just like the original did for U Street).

    Looks good so far.

    I'm a longtime resident/homeowner in the U Street area. I'm also a fan of DC United since their founding in '96. As far as the broad outlines of this deal go I like it. This is not the Nats stadium ripoff of DC all over again. But -- and this is big -- 14th & U MUST end up with something that is positive for our neighborhood. A huge development of just luxury condos and more bars is not good enough. We must keep the farmers market that is there now (outdoor "community space") and our post office. And affordable housing MUST be part of the mix. If these requirements lower the value of the property to Akridge then so be it. As much as I want DC United to get a stadium (and I've been dreaming of it for 18 years) it should not happen at the expense of my city and neighborhood.

    With all that said…make the deal work. This should happen.

  • Sgc

    I don't mean for sale price, I mean in terms of rent. The swap may go just fine.

  • Not Izzy

    Izzy,
    You're ignorant and ill informed. Nobody lives where the stadium will actually be built, ok?

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