When last we checked in on the new D.C. United stadium last December, the D.C. council had just approved $183 million in cash and tax breaks and construction was set to begin real soon now. So that’s that, and — hoooooooooold everything!
In the past three weeks, team officials have toured sites in Loudoun County, lunched with a Loudoun supervisor in New York and hosted a meeting with Virginia economic development officials at the team’s offices at RFK Stadium.
What seems to be going on here is that while the funding for the D.C. stadium is approved, all the paperwork hasn’t been — new mayor Muriel Bowser is still negotiating a “development contract” with the team’s owners to govern such things as cost overruns. So, naturally, it’s off to Virginia, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe has built a reputation for throwing public money (and personalized phone calls) at companies to get them to relocate to his state. Loudoun County officials say they can build a stadium for less than it will cost in D.C. (which probably doesn’t matter much to D.C. United owner Erick Thohir, since he’s not paying for most of it), and get it open in less than two years (which probably does, but is also pretty implausible unless they plan to make it out of plaster).
Anyway, this is almost certainly gamesmanship by Thohir — even the Washington Post obliquely notes that “it is possible D.C. United is using the discussion to gain leverage in the final negotiations over a Washington stadium” — while McAuliffe takes the opportunity to burnish his reputation as a Guy Who Gets Things Done (With Wads Of Cash And Tax Breaks). Not that it’s impossible that the D.C. deal falls apart and Loudoun emerges as a viable suitor, but seriously, with all the years that the D.C. United stadium squabble dragged on, if Thohir really wanted to go to the distant suburbs, don’t you think we’d have heard about it way before now?