Mike Madden of the Washington City Paper has penned an analysis of the $290 million D.C. United stadium proposal, which he notes is better than the Washington Nationals deal (because it’s hard to be worse), but still not necessarily a good deal for the city. And, adds Madden, the beneficiaries aren’t exactly America’s neediest:
Financially, D.C. United could afford to cover the whole $300 million tab on its own. The team’s primary owner, Erick Thohir, is the biggest media mogul in Indonesia; he also owns the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team and is reportedly negotiating to buy a majority stake in Italian soccer power Inter Milan. California venture capitalist Will Chang, one of Thohir’s partners, is a part-owner of the World Series–champion San Francisco Giants. Neither of them needs a handout from District taxpayers.
Even with recent budget surpluses, the District still has needs that go unfunded. Finding $8 million to keep the city’s libraries open on Sundays, for instance, took years. Why is a soccer stadium a better investment than increasing affordable housing, building more public parks, expanding efforts to control flooding in Bloomingdale, or any other item on city government wish lists lately? If the land swaps and development involved make so much sense as a real estate proposition, why wouldn’t private investors want to finance it all themselves, to make potential windfall profits down the line? And if selling the Reeves Center to a private developer makes sense as part of the stadium deal, shouldn’t the city just sell it on its own and keep the money?
Madden, incidentally, is a D.C. United season ticket holder. But he shows that it’s possible to separate rooting for a team on the field and rooting for its owners when they sit down to negotiate subsidies.