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February 16, 2009
P.G. United? Soccer stadium plan announced for Maryland
So D.C. United held its press conference today, and now we have some specifics of the MLS team's plans for a stadium in suburban Prince George's County, Maryland. To wit:
- Where would it be built? The Washington Business Journal says the 24,000-seat stadium would be built "not far from FedEx field" and that team owner Victor MacFarlane said "the exact site will be chosen in the next 30 days." The Washington Post's David Nakamura says MacFarlane is "looking at three sites close to metro stations -- two at the Morgan Blvd. Metro Station and one at the Largo Town Center Metro Station."
- Who would pay for it? The Maryland Stadium Authority would sell bonds, 75% of which would be repaid by "admission, sales and income tax revenue created by the project" (per the Washington Business Journal), with the other 25% coming from the team. That indicates tax-increment financing (TIF) and its sibling finance mechanism, sales-tax-increment-financing (STIF), which allow developers to get their property and sales taxes to get kicked back to pay for construction costs. It's a hugely controversial finance scheme, especially during an economic downturn; as corporate subsidy expert Greg LeRoy told me way back in 2000: "Right now we're in the middle of this giant real estate boom, but real estate markets are cyclical. During the crash in real estate values in the early '90s, some places got caught in the downdraft, and the increment evaporated. And you've got a situation where a liability that was supposed to be taken care of by the TIF is now eating the lunch of the general fund." Gulp.
- How likely is this stadium to happen? Today's press conference was to announce the introduction of legislation by state delegate Melony Griffith - but, according to Nakamura, the bill, if approved by the legislature, would only "allow the team to enter into formal talks with the Maryland Stadium Authority toward building a stadium." He predicts any stadium to be "4-5 years away minimum."
In other words, this is still the very beginning of the process, not the end. MacFarlane may have declared yesterday, "We are coming to Prince George's County," but whether it's forever or just to take a look around remains to be seen.