D.C. council unanimously approves $183m for United, in largest MLS stadium subsidy ever

The Washington, D.C. city council made it official yesterday, voting 12-0 to approve spending $140 million in city money on a new D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point, plus a 20-year property tax abatement worth $43 million. Of that, $33 million will come from money shifted from other, unspecified capital projects, while $106 million will come in the form of new city borrowing, to be repaid via … something. See, it’s all settled!

What is officially the “District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Emergency Act of 2014” — presumably called so because it had to be in order to get enacted on short notice, but it still betrays a certain irony deficiency among D.C. politicians — breaks the record for the largest MLS stadium subsidy ever. (The previous record holder depends on who’s counting, though it’s likely either the Colorado Rapids stadium in Commerce City, which got $120 million according to Judith Grant Long, or the Chicago Fire stadium in Bridgeview, which collected $98 million according to Robert Baade and Victor Matheson.) Though apparently irony isn’t the only thing the bill’s authors are deficient in: One clause extends the deadline for acquiring the stadium land to “September 31, 2015,” which is a pretty neat trick.

But forget all those “numbers” and that “money” — the important thing, as the Washington Post notes, is that the soccer stadium approval gives outgoing mayor Vincent Gray a “legacy” and a “signature economic development project, one that neither of the two preceding mayors were able to accomplish.” Or, looked at another way, Gray finally gave in to the demands for $183 million in subsidies for a private soccer team that earlier mayors had refused to cough up. Isn’t it great how in politics, everything has two equally valid sides?

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3 comments on “D.C. council unanimously approves $183m for United, in largest MLS stadium subsidy ever

  1. Neil, do you recall what DC United most recently sold for? I seem to recall it was in the $110m range.

    What is the thinking process of individuals who endorse subsidies that not only exceed (vastly) the total possible return on that investment from all sources but the value of the entity to be subsidized itself?

    Merry Christmas to club owners, not so much the tax payers of DC is the broader point I guess…

  2. Looks like the dollar figure wasn’t public, but Forbes reported $50 million:


  3. DC has been amending the deal, which has not been finalized, leading the United to start negotiating with Virginia. Hopefully the city will carve out a better deal for itself or drop the project altogether. The United can bluff all they want, Virginia isn’t happening.


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