United welcomes interest

While `appreciative' of Maryland proposal, D.C.'s MLS team keeps options open


October 18, 2007|By Jeff Barker and James Drew | Jeff Barker and James Drew,Sun reporters

D.C. United says it welcomes Maryland's interest in becoming the Major League Soccer team's new home but is still weighing its options - including remaining in Washington.

The Major League Soccer team was responding yesterday to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot's proposal that the state consider attracting the franchise from Washington.

"D.C. United is most appreciative of the interest expressed by Comptroller Franchot. Certainly, there are many thousands of passionate D.C. United fans in Maryland," the club said in a statement e-mailed to The Sun.

"We welcome conversations with any governmental agency in the area, including specifically the Maryland Stadium Authority, that can be helpful to D.C. United in getting a stadium built. However, as we have previously said, we have begun a process to determine available alternative sites for our new stadium," the team said.

That process will involve examining sites and financing arrangements inside and outside of the District, the team said.

Club president and CEO Kevin Payne declined to comment outside of the statement.

At yesterday's state Board of Public Works meeting, Franchot asked the stadium authority to pursue a new stadium for D.C. United in Maryland. Franchot said he met Monday with D.C. United principal partner Victor MacFarlane and Payne.

"This would bring economic and civic benefits to our state," said Franchot, who added that he is a "huge" soccer fan. "The idea of my favorite team playing in Maryland is exciting."

The team plays at RFK Stadium, which it has shared with baseball's Washington Nationals, who are moving into a new stadium next season.

District officials originally explored building a soccer stadium for the team on land known as Poplar Point, which is across the Anacostia River from the new baseball stadium.

But talks between the District and the team stalled, and the club said it would consider moving.

MLS is pushing for its teams to have soccer-only stadiums. The league has seven teams with stadiums built specifically for soccer - up from zero in 1999.

RFK Stadium is a multipurpose stadium that was long the home of the NFL's Redskins and baseball's Senators and Nationals.

In a letter to Frederick W. Puddester, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, Franchot said negotiations between the District government and D.C. United have "reached a standstill, and the United has initiated a search for alternative sites in the Greater Washington region.

"If an ideal site could be found and a development agreement reached with the franchise, this project could yield enormous benefits for our state. As we have learned from past experiences - including Oriole Park at Camden Yards and even the Verizon Center in the District of Columbia - professional sports venues can be a dependable catalyst for economic development that is compatible with Smart Growth policies."

Franchot yesterday said he didn't know where the best site would be for a new United stadium, saying he would leave that to Puddester, who was in the audience at the Board of Public Works on an unrelated issue.

Franchot said he spoke yesterday with Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson about efforts to attract the team and is arranging to talk with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett.

"One of the critical components would be if it moves forward is easy access from Baltimore City through mass transit because there are two areas of Maryland, according to the D.C. United surveys, which are very important for potential growth - Montgomery and Prince George's, and Baltimore," Franchot said.



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