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New D.C. United stadium opposed by six out of 10 District residents

Jan 26, 2014, 8:44 PM EDT

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There was a time in the not so distant past when public funding for a professional sports venues wasn’t that hard to get. Throw out a dubious economic study, evoke some civic pride, and mix in the threat of relocation, and you have a recipe for a series of publicly funded, privately used stadiums across the country. But now that those studies carry less weight, the economic climate’s forcing tougher decisions with tax payer money, and relocations have left a been-there, done-that feel with too many spots, pushing a stadium bill past a local government is harder than ever.

That’s why it shouldn’t be a big surprise that there’s so much opposition to D.C. United’s proposal for a new stadium, according to poll results released Sunday by the Washington Post. The bill, being pushed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Grey, has support from only 35 percent of the 1,003 residents polled, with most expressing skepticism about the district’s potential $150 million investment. Perhaps more concerning, at least one respondent said her opposition specifically concerns spending on soccer. From the Post:

Six in 10 District residents oppose the plan … with the number of those strongly opposed to the deal more than double those who strongly support it …

The proposed investment is less than one-fourth of what the city invested in Nationals Park, the baseball stadium that opened in 2008 and is now widely seen by city residents as a good investment … Rosalind Jackson-Lewis, a 57-year-old Riggs Park resident, said she is “absolutely, positively against it.” “There are more pressing problems in the city, and soccer is not going to add value to the city,” said Jackson-Lewis, a retired accountant …

The poll isn’t the only problem. In the middle of a reelection campaign, Grey is receiving pressure from within his own party about his support of the unpopular plan. The city has yet to secure the land it would donate for the project, and any financing plan (which involves selling an office building) would still have to be approved by the city council. It seems like we’ve been here before. There’s an apparent stadium plan for D.C., the MLS community gets excited, and then we’re reminded how difficult things get once we move beyond the soccer sphere. While MLS fans are as devoted as any, not everybody beyond that bubble is sold on soccer. While D.C. residents may be willing pay for $600 million baseball stadium, the idea of a smaller investment for soccer end up being a no-go. We’re just not there yet. According to the Post, it’s not just that District residents currently oppose a park. Residents have been historically consistent in their opposition to a new United venue:

Public opinion on a city-financed soccer stadium has not changed appreciably since 2008, when the last serious talks took place about a deal with D.C. United. At that time, 60 percent of residents opposed using public funds to finance a soccer facility, with 39 percent supporting. The new poll showed 59 percent opposing the current plan, with 35 percent in favor. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The Post has much more, especially about the proposed soccer stadium vis-a-vis Nationals Park. The question that I can’t get out of my mind, as somebody who has a vested interest in soccer’s growth: Should I be rooting for D.C. United to get this deal when most of the district’s citizens oppose it? We get so caught up in ‘Yay, they got a venue,’ and ‘wow, look at that new park,” that we never stop and consider how much those projects make sense outside of our soccer bubbles. Would a new park be great of United? Of course. Have you heard about the rats at RFK? But is it something that’s good for the District of Columbia? Should soccer fans want something that’s so unpopular with the people who will give up land and a building to get make it happen? D.C. United has some convincing to do.

  1. pinstripedog - Jan 26, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    DC United should move then.

    By the rules of the unofficial game, if a city won’t pay for a new facility then the team should move to a city (if they can find one) that will. I think there are a lot of cities that are willing to pay for a stadium to become a major league city. Remember when Virginia Beach offered to build a arena for the Sacramento Kings?

    I think taxpayer subsidies for sports arenas/stadiums are evil plain and simple. However it seems a little hypocritical considering they build a stadium for the Nationals that they won’t for DC United. Another example of MLS is treated like garbage. But that’s ok, MLS isn’t as popular as MLB or the other sports got it. DC residents have every right to oppose the arena, however that means DC United has the right to pick up their ball and go somewhere else so to speak.

    This is exactly what happened in Seattle with the Sonics. Mr. Starbucks Howard Schultz wanted a new arena built, the Seattle voters refused, he sold to Clay Bennett and Bennett moved the team to OKC.

  2. mikeevergreen - Jan 26, 2014 at 11:54 PM

    Baltimore United.

    • gloryostrich - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:16 AM

      or Charm City United, either would work with me. Then slap the Boh logo on the front of the jersey.

  3. overtherepermanently - Jan 27, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    As someone who is not a United fan, but a DC metro area resident, I can say demographics matter, and they are not favorable to United in the District at the moment. That is changing, but as it stands, the majority of supporters are coming in from Virginia and parts of Maryland.

  4. talgrath - Jan 27, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Having recently visited DC this winter let me say this, the worst part of this is that DC’s stadium is in a fairly bad part of town. The area is secure enough when a game is going on, but it’s a pretty rough area once the game is done. If I were DC United, I’d seriously look at heading to Baltimore, it’s not a big switch and they’re probably more willing to spend money on a soccer stadium because the current situation in DC is not a good one in any way, shape or form.

  5. mvktr2 - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    Good for the tax fleeced sheep. All stadiums should be privately funded and all stadium plans should be left up to private entities. If you’ve got the capital you build the stadium, if you don’t you don’t. There is no such thing as ‘public funds’ or ‘public property’. If you think so go use some of that property without political permission and see how many armed men are sent to subdue you.

  6. geojock - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    It’s all in the details. It is funny how the opinion sways back and forth; the masses like a bunch of sheep going this way and that. Take Houston for example; you have great support for grand (and expensive) stadiums like Reliant and the Astrodome all on the back of Johnny tax payer. Then you have lots of opposition to the Dynamo stadium which was a great private-public partnership and very little cost to the average taxpayer.

  7. seanb20124 - Jan 27, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    Baltimore is way more ghetto than DC. Suburban stadium is the way to go.

  8. walt6812walt6812 - Jan 28, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    If you bothered to read the poll, the question was, do you support public financing for a stadium in general? There is no public financing. The city is swapping on piece of property for another piece. The city owns the land. United builds the stadium. It was a loaded question and has no real bearing on the facts.

  9. builditbetternow - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    I cringe every time they interview one of these crunchy tree-hugging anti-progress anti-sport heffers like Rosiland Jackson-Lewis. She probably thinks a field full of poppy flowers is good for the city. And that she can’t cut down that decrepit rotting tree because “squirrels live in it”. That’s what’s these ppl are like. Oppose oppose oppose. Because they’re scared. Scared of progress. Scared of technology. Scared to take a risk. And just stuck. Stuck where they are. Never moving forward. A new stadium would be a boon for that area, and the city. Sparking development. A catalyst for gentrification. Pride. Get on the side of progress people.

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