Is a Subsidized Soccer Stadium a Smart Investment for D.C.?

Recently it was announced that D.C. had reached a tentative agreement to help fund a new soccer stadium to be built in an area of the city that has long resisted redevelopment. Stadiums are generally a bad deal for cities, but is this an exception?
August 3, 2013, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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At $150 million for infrastructure improvements, the financing promised by D.C. to help Major League Soccer team D.C. United build a long-sought stadium in the area known as Buzzard Point, is a bargain compared to the $693 million the city paid to build Nationals Park for its baseball team. But, says Mike Madden, "Just because the stadium deal is a better deal than most cities get for subsidizing arenas, though, doesn’t necessarily make it a bona fide good deal."

"Even with recent budget surpluses, the District still has needs that go unfunded," he adds. "Finding $8 million to keep the city’s libraries open on Sundays, for instance, took years. Why is a soccer stadium a better investment than increasing affordable housing, building more public parks, expanding efforts to control flooding in Bloomingdale, or any other item on city government wish lists lately?"

Add to the mix a site in "one of the last unknown corners of the District" that has managed to remain underdeveloped while the rest of the city boomed. "When Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and D.C. United executives announced a tentative deal last week to erect a $300 million, 20,000-seat stadium four blocks from the city’s six-year-old baseball park, city officials touted the power of sports facilities to spur development, saying that the franchise would get not only a new home but also the chance to create restaurants, stores and even a hotel adjacent to their stadium," writes Marc Fisher.

For a part of the city that has failed to attract developers due to its inherent challenges (poor access, unattractive current uses), this may be the best deal Southwest D.C. is going to get. 

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Published on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 in Washington City Paper
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