DC United asks for more money and public parkland for second stadium before first one has even opened

What do you get for a team that is already about to get a new soccer-specific stadium at a cost of $183 million in public money, the largest taxpayer subsidy in MLS history? How about another stadium, because you can never have too many of those:

D.C. United has finalized a tentative deal with Loudoun County, Virginia, for a 5,000-seat stadium for the soccer club’s second-division team. The complex will include four soccer fields, a training facility, office space, and a youth development program. The stadium would be located in Leesburg, Virginia, at Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park.

Still, the deal needs to go before the county Board of Supervisors in January for approval. If approved, Loudoun County, Virginia, will provide $15 million in financing as well as the needed land for the project, as reported by Washington Business Journal.

Okay, yes, I get it, this is actually for D.C. United‘s minor-league team (or B team, as they say in soccer [or football, as they say in soccer]), so it’s not entirely unlike the New York Mets and Yankees, say, having separate stadiums for their minor-league affiliates across town from their major-league facilities. Except, seriously, come on: The MLS stadium is only going to be in use 17 days a year, so they couldn’t let the B team use it on the A team’s days off? That’s what Orlando City SC does. It’s less common in European soccer leagues (the English Premier League doesn’t allow B teams), but there you’re talking about putting a second-division game in a 100,000-seat (well, 50,000-seat, anyway; see comments) stadium; if you’re worried that 5,000 fans will look bad in a 20,000-seat stadium, you probably shouldn’t be running an MLS team in the first place.

But then, the D.C. United owners asking for a second stadium to go with their first one is ultimately understandable — it’s Christmastime, after all. What’s more insane is that Loudoun County would consider giving up $15 million plus land just to host a minor-league soccer stadium and training complex. And if you’re thinking, oh, but at least they’re getting some soccer fields out of the bargain that local teams can use, check out the public park that the new stadium would be built in:

This award-winning, 405-acre regional park has something for everyone – from the outdoor enthusiast to the seasoned athlete. The expansive property features baseball, softball, football, lacrosse, and soccer complexes, as well as trails, natural woodlands, picnic areas and a visitors’ center.

Yep, that’s right: A Virginia county is set to consider whether to spend $15 million to tear down public soccer fields and replace them with private soccer fields. (Or maybe tear down lacrosse fields or natural woodlands — I haven’t found a map of where precisely the new stadium would go.) Some days, I don’t think this whole “explaining to people why sports stadium subsidies are a scam” gig is going very well at all.

12 comments on “DC United asks for more money and public parkland for second stadium before first one has even opened

  1. The English Premier League actually “allows” B teams (they are U23 teams), they just compete in their own setup, not in the traditional English pyramid.

    And there are no 100,000 seat stadiums in Europe. Camp Nou in Barcelona is just a shade under that. But that’s the only one that is close.

      • Honestly Neil as a big fan, you use poetic license way too much. When you are on the side of arguing for truth in numbers, you need to stick to the facts. I notice you exaggerating all the time (likely in exasperation) and I understand it. But when you are trying to combat misinformation it is very important to accurately or understate your case to avoid being open to that line of attack. I can think of some recent cases where you rounded up say $169 million to $200 million or whatever.

        Its your blog and a great service, obviously do whatever you want. But form an advocacy perspective I would stop exaggerating if possible, because the people you are arguing against will fixate on any little mistake.

        • Well, the Premier League genuinely doesn’t have B teams — U-23 teams are something different. As for the 100,000-seat thing, that’s fair enough, but I’d already used “ginormous” once today, and I was trying to point out that MLS stadiums are way smaller than European ones. (On average — I’m not counting Eibar.) If I’d said “50,000-plus or whatever,” that would have been both clearer and more accurate.

          I can’t think of any cases ever where I (knowingly, at least) rounded up from $169 million to $200 million or anything like that. Are you sure you’re not thinking of times where it’s “$169 million plus unknown land and infrastructure costs” and I’ve guesstimated? I’m usually pretty careful about cost numbers, for precisely the reasons that you state above.

          • The average stadium size in European soccer leagues is lower than one would expect because most national leagues pair real giants with tiny teams that wouldn’t be “major league” in the US (think Manchester United versus Burnley or Watford). In addition, English top-tier stadiums don’t have bleachers or standing areas (as they used to, and as American college stadiums still do)–it is difficult to have a ginormous stadium without them.

            In leagues where B-teams (or 2nd teams) can move up and down, their attendance is a lot lower than 5,000. German B teams (as an example) barely draw 1,000 in the third league and maybe half that in the 4th–probably 20% of the average in the actual leagues.

            Destroying a park to build a 5,000 person stadium is probably the opposite of civic minded, particularly since for most of its history it will be about twice as big as needed.

    • This is correct. The average Premier League stadium size is on the order of 37,000 or so. Thought the average is being pulled up this year by Tottenham playing in Wembley this year while they rebuild their stadium.

      Also most of the U23 teams don’t play at their main stadium, but at one of the training grounds, though this isn’t consistent some like LCFC play at the main stadium.

  2. Like most readers of this blog I’m against public funding for stadiums, but Loudoun County is so rich that they can raise the $15 million just by checking for change under the seats of the school buses. Lots of soccer fans out there so they’ll probably draw better than the parent club, not that that is hard to do.

    The bigger story here is if the United move a large portion of their staff out of the District, part of the deal for DC putting up all that cash was keeping the front office jobs in the city. The city made a bad deal and it’s only t going to get worse.

    • I agree and disagree with this because I work in Loudoun County Public Schools. You are correct – there’s so much money in this county that you can smell the entitlement. That said, the schools budget has been squeezed, cut, maligned, and scoffed at for years by the BoS, which has left us woefully behind in providing resources for students. Plus, salaries have twice been frozen, and several “downsizings” of staff have occurred over the past 10 years. This county has a ton of wealth, but we’re not rich in that the wealth is concentrated, and they ain’t about to share. I can see the BoS cutting school funds to make this work. That’s what local government’s do. This is just a smaller scale ripoff. Well, at least it’s not $750 million, if we’re trying to put a nice spin on it.

  3. I believe MLS B teams were playing against other MLS B teams prior to actual games until teams started to move more towards a minor league set up. The small venue might also lead to a women’s team.

  4. Just for clarification purposes… Neil’s comment that the EPL does not allow “b” teams (as some other European leagues do) to compete in the same or lower leagues is correct. It serves no-one’s interest to have the big four/two/six win all the lesser trophies as well as the major ones.

    In the Football pyramid in the UK, reserve or youth squads can be entered into dedicated reserve or youth leagues administered by the FA (English reserve league group 1-8, as I recall), but cannot compete in the more generally known professional competitions (cups/PL/LC/L1/L2 etc).

    Unless the Youth squad rules have changed in the last couple of years and I didn’t keep up on it, they are not U23 sides. Players under 18 can play on youth squads, players over 18 lose their youth eligibility but can still play on the main club reserve squad/league, obviously.

    • It was a recent change, but the EPL started U21 teams like five years ago and then upped the age to U23 in the 2016-2017 season. The U18 teams remained in place. It’s a relatively new development though.


  5. Last year we went to Edinburgh and took in a Hibernians match. IIRC, the team owns the stadium and only expands when they have the money to do so. Taxpayer dollars for stadiums and arenas is one of the biggest frauds put against We the People.