D.C. United has moved a major step closer to ending its long-running search for a soccer-specific stadium after D.C. Council adopted legislation that sets out the financing and the terms through which the District and the Major League Soccer (MLS) team will build a $300m (€241.9m) facility.
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 claim the franchise loses money every year from playing in the 46,000-seat facility, but D.C. Council has now approved the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Act of 2014 in its second and final vote, approving the development of a new 20,000-25,000-seat stadium in the Buzzard Point neighbourhood of Southwest Washington. The legislation’s passage targets the opening of the stadium in 2017 and wards off talk D.C. United may move from its local area.
The Washington Business Journal website said D.C. will finance land acquisition and site preparation to a soft cap of $150m, with D.C. United financing the construction of what will be the most expensive stadium in MLS.
D.C. United managing general partner Jason Levien said: “We are thrilled that D.C. United’s future in our nation’s capital is secure. The most storied club in Major League Soccer will have a stadium of its own following final approval of the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Act of 2014 by the D.C. Council. It is a victory for the team and its fans, the city, the region and the sport of soccer in this country.
“Our new stadium will generate jobs and economic activity. Our new stadium will add to the positive development already taking place along the Anacostia waterfront. It will be a venue that makes its neighbours proud; it will help our city become the nation’s soccer capital.”
Elsewhere, Las Vegas City Council has voted in favour of a stadium subsidy deal with a development partner seeking to bring a MLS team to play at a new $200m facility in the city. Under the agreement, private funding from a group headed by Findlay Sports & Entertainment and the Cordish Companies will cover roughly $143m of the stadium project, while the city will contribute $25m in bonds and another $31m in infrastructure funding.
MLS will expand to 20 teams in 2015 with the addition of New York City FC and Orlando City FC, followed by a franchise in Atlanta and a second Los Angeles-based team to replace the defunct Chivas USA in 2017. MLS commissioner Don Garber has stated he wants 24 teams in MLS by the end of the decade and the league has recently held talks with potential ownership groups from Minnesota, Sacramento and Las Vegas. The Miami Beckham United group needs to secure a stadium deal before it can win final approval for an MLS franchise, having confirmed its intention to launch an expansion franchise by 2017 in February.
Commenting on the Las Vegas announcement, Garber said: “We applaud Mayor (Carolyn) Goodman and the Las Vegas City Council for approving the measure to support a public-private partnership to build a new soccer-stadium in downtown Las Vegas. We look forward to continuing our discussions with the Cordish Company and Findlay Sports & Entertainment regarding a possible expansion team for Las Vegas.”